The Cost of Kobe’s 5th Ring

By: 06.29.10  •  37 Comments

Kobe Bryant (photo. Nike)

Kobe Bryant played the majority of the last few years with finger problems. Two years ago, he suffered ligament damage in his right pinkie. Last year, it was more major: multiple fractures in his right index finger.

There was no real cause for concern, however — he just played through the pain and would presumably get it fixed in the offseason. Bryant did that in 2008 after his run to an Olympic Gold Medal, and according to an ESPN report, Kobe said he’ll likely have surgery on his finger after he got back from watching the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

“I’m going to talk with our staff here and Mitch (Kupchak) as well and come up with a time line to take care of some of the injuries that have been nagging me and things we need to address,” Bryant said. “We’ll do that before I leave.”

But now, the Orange County Register is reporting there might be some issues:

The middle knuckle on that critical finger on Bryant’s shooting hand is so debilitated by arthritis after the past season of misuse and overuse that there may be no real way to fix it. Bryant will consult with specialists in July to figure out his options, but arthritis is not a problem that can just be cleaned up with arthroscopic surgery or wished away with a little rest. Bryant suffered an avulsion fracture in two places near the tip of the finger on Dec. 11 as he tried to field a low Jordan Farmar pass. Bryant kept playing despite a projection of needing at least six weeks to heal — and he played pretty well. … Cartilage damage in a finger joint simply isn’t easily fixed because there is so little cartilage with which to work. For Bryant’s purposes of shooting and handling a basketball, fusing the joint is hardly a viable option.

From what we are hearing, it doesn’t sound like Bryant plans on getting surgery on his right knee. After having the knee drained early in L.A.’s playoff run, Bryant described it as “fine.” But, that is the same knee that has been surgically repaired twice.

While fingers are different from knees or the back — a player can normally work through the pain of a digit — the Lakers’ star is turning 32 in August and recently crossed the dreaded 1,000 games-played mark. That number (1,021) isn’t even counting the 198 playoff games he has played. Do all of these nagging body parts — the fingers, a twice-repaired knee and the back — take a toll?

Possibly. But, the one thing we do know as fact: you never doubt Kobe.

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