How Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti ‘Popped’ Kobe Bryant And The Lakers To A Championship In 2000

By now, you’ve probably heard the story about how Kobe Bryant got “Jalen Rose’d” by Jalen Rose in Game 2 of the 2000 NBA Finals. It was a development that very nearly swung the series in favor of the Indiana Pacers. Though the Lakers managed to pull out a victory in that game without Bryant, they would go on to lose Game 3 in Indiana.

The Pacers had a chance to tie the series on their home floor in Game 4, but a somewhat miraculous recovery altered the course of history. In a recent interview, Bryant revealed that, in fact, it took a little bit of magic on the part of legendary Lakers trainer Gary Vitti to get him ready to play that night. Via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:

Before Game 4 of that series, Bryant said, “I could barely walk and [Vitti is working on] my ankle and all the sudden you just heard this loud ‘pop.’ We just looked at each other and said, ‘OK, this is either really good or really bad.’

“I start walking around and I said, ‘Damn! You fixed it. You fixed it!'”

Bryant went on to score 28 points that night and help the Lakers secure a 3-1 series lead. They’d go on to win the first of their three titles in six games.

Like Bryant, Vitti is calling it quits after this season. He’s been with the franchise for 32 years and is enjoying something of a retirement tour of his own. Their career convergence and long-time kinship is truly unique in modern professional sports.