Whether you’re a fan of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant or not, you can’t deny his dedication to the game and the raw talent he brings to the basketball court. Bryant joined the Lakers in 1996 and his presence was immediately felt on the court.
He scored 1,220 points—nearly 400 field goals—and played in 79 out of 82 games in the 1997-1998 season, all at the age of 19. Bryant continued to excel from there, breaking records held by all-time greats and propelling the Lakers to three consecutive National Basketball Association titles from 1999 to 2002. Playing day-in and day-out for 18 years at that high of a caliber, however, puts significant strain on the body. This has become apparent in recent years for Bryant.
It’s not a surprise that the majority of his injuries have affected the lower third of his body, essentially keeping him off the court since he is unable to push off his feet. It appears, however, that the “Black Mamba” has not let age or collective stress from injuries accumulate to impede upon statistical success. Bryant’s points and field goals per season increased from 2009-2010 to the 2010-2011 season––in which he scored over 2,000 points. With that said, Bryant played just six games in 2013-2014 due to a high ankle sprain that lead to a torn Achilles tendon. This season, Bryant was limited to just 35 games after stress on his arm led to a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. At 36 years old and with the prevalence of his injuries rising from season to season, the question of how much gas Kobe has left in the tank is starting to come up. At this point, no one really knows if Kobe will come back with a roar next season, come back mediocre or even come back at all.
Regardless of whether or not Bryant returns, it is all but certain that he will end up in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame after his legendary career comes to the close. Both the Lakers and Bryant have to determine whether he is more of an asset or a liability to the team after he recovers from his injuries. I know that if I were the general manager, it would be pretty hard to tell a 17-time All-Star that helped the Lakers earn five championships during his tenure that his services to the team are no longer of sufficient value.
The true value of Bryant can also be attributed to simply his reputation and the intimidation factor that comes in when opposing teams see him jogging down the court. Despite his obvious passion and talent, Bryant has definitely shown signs of uncertainty regarding the future of his career. “If I want to play, I’ll play. If I don’t, I don’t,” he said. “If I don’t want to play anymore and go through the process of getting my body ready day in and day out, I’m not going to play.”