One of the biggest story lines of the 2013-14 NBA season will be the return of Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in the final week of the regular season, which ultimately caused him to miss the playoffs. Typically a player needs six to nine months in order to make a full recovery, but Bryant has proven during his 17-year career that he is far from typical.
All eyes will be on Kobe as we near training camp and opening night, but whenever he does set foot on the court again â€” whether it be in early October, Christmas Day or post All-Star break â€” there’s one thing for sure: he will be the same player that fans have come to love and hate. Below are 10 reasons why there will be no setbacks in the Black Mamba’s game when he ultimately does return to the court in purple and gold â€” or black.
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10. He’s already way ahead of the usual rehab schedule
Kobe Bryant got injured on April 12 against the Golden State Warriors. If he took the full normal amount of recovery time he wouldn’t be back until mid-January. However, Kobe has done so well with his rehab he has sparked talk and debate about whether he could be back on the court by the start of training camp. If you think this is all just the media blowing smoke into a story, read Bryant’s words for yourself:
“The normal timetable for recovery from an Achilles, we’ve shattered that. Three-and-a-half months I can already walk just fine, I’m lifting weights with the Achilles just fine and that’s different. So we don’t know what that timetable is going to be. It’s kind of new territory for us all.”
9. He’s come back from a major surgery before
In the summer of 2011, Kobe went overseas to Germany in order to get a knee procedure done. All he did next season was average 27.9 PPG 5.4 RPG, 4.6 APG while playing in all 58 games of the lockout-shortened season. This was no run of the mill surgery either, Andrew Bynum got the same procedure done to his knee last year, and he didn’t even suit up for the Philadelphia 76ers at all. Bryant has also played through some pretty severe injuries instead of sitting out. In the 2000 NBA Finals he put aside an ankle sprain to lead the Lakers to a critical victory in Game 4. He played through a back injury in the 2008 Western Conference semifinals. Finally, in 2009 he led the Lakers to their first championship since 2002 with a dislocated right pinky finger.
8. He is the hardest working man in all of sports
I want you to try and wake up at 5 a.m. just once a week and see how you feel when you try and drag yourself out of bed to be productive. Kobe Bryant does this every day. He’s up with the sun and getting in a workout while his peers are still dreaming of fame and stardom. There is nobody else in the entire sports world that is more dedicated and devoted to his craft than KB24. It’s not just a matter of luck that Kobe has managed to be so successful for so long. He puts the time in, hours upon hours of it, to be exact. It seems that he is constantly adding new moves to his arsenal, remember he mastered the Dirk Nowitzki one-legged fadeaway in the matter of a single off-season. He has footwork that even Hakeem Olajuwon would applaud. Bryant is a true student of the game and every other athlete needs to take notes.
7. The Lakers roster is now better-suited to his style of play
To be honest, the Los Angeles Lakers that took the floor last season couldn’t have held a candle to some of the past teams that called Staples Center or even The Forum home. The Lakers looked like a team straight from a reality TV show â€” though those Shaq/Kobe years give them a run for their money with in terms of interpersonal struggles. There was drama between Dwight Howard and Kobe, arguments within the front office, and the fans wanting Phil Jackson and getting Mike D’Antoni instead. It’s as if BET had created a basketball-themed spinoff to “The Game.” This year’s team will be Kobe-centric once he returns to action. Pau Gasol goes back to being the man in the middle (a formula that helped bring two championships to LA) and as we saw last season, Steve Nash won’t be as ball dominant as he was in Phoenix while sharing the same back-court with Kobe. Everyone else on the roster is merely a role player. Kobe will be the brightest star on the Lakers roster, something he has wanted since he first came in the league, and when Kobe gets to be alpha dog, Kobe puts up numbers, though not always wins.
6. Doubters & Naysayers
As part of their “Summer Forecast” series, a group of NBA writers at ESPN predicted the records every team in the NBA next season. For the Lakers, they predicted the team would finish 36-46 and in 12th place in the Western Conference. Not only did this draw the ire of more than half of California, but it caught the attention of the Black Mamba. Kobe tweeted his response, “12th I see..”. If there’s one thing Kobe doesn’t need, it’s bulletin board material. Bryant naturally has a nasty competitive edge, so giving him a reason to show you up, or prove you wrong, only adds fuel to his fire.
5. He really wants to surpass MJ in titles
If there were anything that drives Kobe more than people telling him what he can/can’t do, it would be trying to surpass the G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan in rings. Bryant has admitted in the past to modeling his game after and taking moves from the greats, but the most similarities can be seen between him and His Airness (don’t believe me? Well, there’s video proof). If Kobe could get seven rings under his belt, one upping Jordan’s six, I believe he would be just fine walking away from the game. Until then, Bryant will keep playing until his body stops him.
4. He doesn’t see his career ending anytime soon
One theme that surrounded Bryant while he was sidelined by his injury was how long he could keep playing. Even though he came in the league straight out of high school, with a baby face and baby ‘fro, Kobe has been playing in the NBA for 17 seasons (never missing more than 17 games in a single year). Plus, there’s the toll of the playoffs and his forays with USA Basketball that add mileage to those 35-year-old knees. To put this in better perspective, only 23 players have played longer than Kobe. However, as of late, Bryant’s opinion on how long he can play has seen a slight change. At one point Vino admitted that he would consider retirement at the end of his current contract (through next season), but then he said he would play as long as he can score 20 PPG before ultimately saying he believes he can be around for another 3-4 years. Don’t expect Kobe to retire anytime soon.
3. Reclaim the best player on the planet title
There was once a time when LeBron James wasn’t considered the greatest thing in basketball since the peach basket; a time where James’ potential and athletic ability were outshone by craftsmanship and pure basketball knowledge. That time wasn’t that long ago, actually: back in 2010, when the Lakers were coming off back-to-back NBA titles, the whole basketball-watching populace knew that Kobe was the best player in the world. However, King James now has back-to-back titles of his own and looks to have garnered control over the game. As long as the Black Mamba is suiting up, he’s going to want to show that he truly is the best in the game.
2. He’s the ultimate competitor
Kobe does not like to lose. Ever. He reportedly tried to fight Shaq in practice when their beef was at an all-time high, and he didn’t back down for a second from the behemoth of a man. Then there’s the now-infamous quote Bryant posted on his Facebook page following his injury: “If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear.” While there won’t be any bears gracing the court with KB24 â€” a la Jackie Moon â€” Kobe treats any opponent with that same ferocity and will to win.
1. He’s Kobe Bryant
Kobe is the closest thing we’ve seen to Michael Jordan. The same cold-hearted, cutthroat approach that made MJ the greatest of all time, can be seen in every menacing look Bryant conjures while on the floor. The main, and most important, reason one should never doubt Kobe in anything he tries to accomplish, can be summed up in three words: Kobe is Kobe.
What do you think?
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