Kobe: Injury, Rehab ‘Relit Fire in Me’

VIDEO: Kobe talks extension about the process that led to his extension

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — For a player whose Hall of Fame career has been defined by personal defiance, it shouldn’t shock any of us to hear Kobe Bryant talk about what motivates him now.

That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the Los Angeles Lakers’ star at his most defiant, in the wake of the backlash from him signing a two-year, $48.5 million extension Tuesday. That signing that brought out all sorts of non-believers and folks who don’t think he can come back completely from the Achilles tendon surgery cut short his 2012-13 season.

Defiant Kobe is far more entertaining than any other incarnation of the man who has been, in my opinion, the most polarizing NBA superstar of his generation and one of the most polarizing superstars ever.

It’s music to my ears to hear Kobe laugh off his haters and remind us all that no matter how bleak the outlook, he has the utmost confidence in himself and his ability. Even at this late stage of his career, he refuses to conform to conventional wisdom, the first step in trying to do the unthinkable and become exactly what he set out be many years ago: one of the NBA’s all-time greats.

So when he explains, to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, what keeps him going now, nearly two decades in and coming off of perhaps the most challenging obstacle in a career filled with them, it’s hard to be anything but intrigued by what makes the man tick:

“The Achilles, the rehab, it relit a fire in me, that’s for sure,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “I had been going so long, so long, putting in work – 17 years – and never taking a break, never taking time off. That’s a long time to push your body, especially the way I pushed mine.

“Every time I had to find that drive, I would eventually find it … somewhere. But it took a toll. Every summer, I’d finally find that push that would get me there. But it was getting harder to do.”

This is less about Kobe adoration — his legion of fans already have well under control — and more about the appreciation I have for a guy who continually finds new ways to motivate himself.

With all of his career accolades, Bryant could have easily walked away one title short of catching Michael Jordan. He could have said enough is enough, that his body had endured more than enough punishment. He’s already among the top four scorers in the history of the game. He has the titles and the individual and team achievements that would make some of the league’s greats jealous.

But that’s not enough for Kobe. It just doesn’t quite do it for him, which speaks to a level of competitiveness and (and, some might argue, borderline-crazy) focus that elevates him into a realm that only a few players with the talent, desire, work ethic and good fortune have ever possessed.

The Lakers — from Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss to GM Mitch Kupchak to the millions of fans in and around the Southland and around the world — recognize that laser focus. They’ve witnessed it for years. They understand that the $48.5 million Kobe will earn in his extension is a relatively reasonable price tag for qualities that are priceless in most any other walk of life.

Kobe is a revenue-generator the likes of which few franchises, cities and their fan bases have ever experienced. (Lakers fans from the Showtime era, Boston Celtics fans from the Larry Bird era and Bulls fans from the Jordan era certainly know what I’m talking about.)

He toils in an environment where the folks who pay extremely large sums to watch him are the only people who can truly comprehend what it’s like to entertain the way he’s asked to. While the other non-NBA Hollywood types might be lucky to star in one or two movies a year or on a TV show that runs 10-12 episodes a season, Kobe is expected to be a star 82 nights a year.

Ultimately, it’s not about the adoring public, the haters or what either of those groups think. It’s not my money or yours. The Lakers are the ones on the hook for paying Bryant, whether he comes back as a shell of the player he was or as the “Black Mamba” we all know. They’re the ones who have to, as Rasheed Wallace infamously said, “cut the check.”

And as Woj pointed out, they didn’t flinch (publicly, at least):

The Los Angeles Lakers still believe in Kobe Bryant, and this means the world to him. Of course, the money matters, and it always will to him. He hadn’t come to Washington, D.C., to make a concession speech, only to thank the Busses for the leap of faith and declare himself closer to his return. Between a news conference and the next steps in his rehab on Tuesday night, Kobe Bryant was still raging over the response to his contract extension. This wasn’t a noble gesture to awaken his peers, but simply a visceral reaction to the way the NBA has slowly, surely eroded the superstar’s standing in the sport – and the way the players have allowed it to happen.

“Bull—-,” Kobe Bryant finally again said on his way back to the locker room. “Pure bull—-.”

Defiant Kobe at his best!


  1. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    You sure that fire wasn’t the spicy food you ate last night?

  2. xyz says:

    I’m a Lebron James fan, but I’m really happy that Kobe re-signed for another 2 years in the NBA. I have great respect for him and he deserves every penny of the 48.5 mil $ contract. I’m sure he’ll come back as the Black Mamba in no time. I’m sure he won’t win another ring though in these 2 seasons, unless the Lakers land Lebron and some good role players which I doubt is possible…..Anyway, the NBA loses a lot of its appeal without a legend like Kobe playing night-in and night-out, so him playing for another 2 years is great news!

  3. NBA World says:

    The Lakers made a very smart move in paying Kobe his dues, Ive been watching the NBA since Magic Johnson was recruited and have seen some amazing basketball from the Laker and the rest of the NBA.

    My point is this Kobe still at his age is probably the 3rd best player in the NBA behind James and Durant (only because of his age NOT TALENT). But what most people are forgetting is that last year before he snapped his achilles he played the second most minutes in the NBA an 18 year old rookie played more by 1 min per game.

    Now is this your typical 34 year old? is this the guy that all you guys are writing off? he was 3rd in scoring 2nd in min and the rest of his stats were amazing.

    If he had a better team around him like James and Durant have is there any doubt that he would have made a run for the tittle or another MVP.

    Jordans exact words in an interview when asked who is the greatest player currently a few years ago he said Kobe over James and anyone else, and I quote “he has the decease worse than I had it” thats the drive thats need to be the best.

    Don’t write off the Mamba he has not finished his story yet.

    Cheers World

  4. Father says:

    People getting mad ‘cos Kobe got paid

    • Kome the Black Dumba says:

      No, I don’t think they are. At least I am not. I am just mad at how dumb the Lakers organization have become. Ah, the glory days of showtime.

  5. DEJ says:

    I don’t know why people complain about how much Kobe makes. I always appreciated the raises I’ve received for my hard work while I always thought that I was worth more. Retirement is based on higher income so all of those players should get as much as they can get because they will need it for medical expenses. When those who take the cut for team-sake win rings then maybe other playes can consider lesser offers. I’m just saying!

  6. kobe fan says:

    kobe knows when pau is gone, they will have loads of $$$ but even as a kobe fan he should of done deal of 2 years for 40mil. the guy is rich and in china he can make 80mil a year! now the lakers need to sign underrated players who are

    jimmy butler, keep jordan hill, get kyle korver, earl clark, chris copeland, and avery bradly,omer asik for pau trade

  7. kb24 fan says:

    I’m a huge kobe fan and him signing is a great news for lakers and the rest of the nba. however, kobe should have taken a pay cut to increase the chance of winning a title. I’m not saying he should play for 7 million or something similar to that amount because thats just ludicrous. In reality, he should have signed for 14-15 millions dollars per year contract, which Gives lakers enough space to sign a another max player and great supporting casts.

    • jobert says:

      Even if he gets a paycut, get Lebron or whoever. Lakers aren’t gon win a championship as long as Mike D’Antoni is coaching. MDA is pure baloney. He doesn’t know how to coach. Period. There are other far more competent coach for our Lakers than this joke MDA. Get over MDA? Everytime I watch my Lakers play, I get frustrated with the sets the MDA places. The adjustments, the rotation, geez.

      • justin says:

        his contract expires next year don’t worry.

        Also, where is that LBJ6 clown troll?

      • eh says:

        Mike D’Antoni just gotta realize the players are not as smart as him. His sets are perfect theoretically but only as good as the users realistically. Smarts that can run his plays could prob be only Nash and Lin.

    • Lakers' fanboy says:

      the management just handed him the contract with 48.5 mill on the table. like serioously? would u say no. give me half of that only? i dont think so.

  8. PalmOil Preference says:

    I am not a fan of Kobe but I am a doe had hoops fan who’s has respect an appreciation for what he has brought to our game.

    With that said if Chauncey Billups can come back then the Bean Bryant is going to be find. RIP black mamba era hello Mr. Bean still gets the job done but not quite what were use too.

    • Jim says:

      Kobe’s problem is he starting to settle. He doesn’t have that belief that he used to have..that he’s better than everyone. That belief makes a player looks conceited, but it makes a great player. Kobe is settled bc he starting to believe that Lebron, and now many young legs are catching up to him, that’s he’s falling behind. If he continues to refuse to believe that they’re catching up, he’ll win another ring.

      • Inky says:

        I don’t understand LBJ fans, or I should say rather 1 player fans, I mean can’t you be a fan of LBJ and Kobe?
        Kobe’s been in the league for quite a while now, he’s a vet, so he gets paid…easy. I’d like to see any player, LBJ included say no to that contract…ridiculous to think that any player worth that money would say no.
        I think LBJ is awesome, his natural athleticism is something out of this world, as far as a smart player, I mean he’s got court presence don’t get me wrong, but the older you get in this game the better ball you have to play and rely less on the explosive physical attributes of youth.

        Personally I love watching LBJ, he’s definitely a fav, but I miss the sheer insanity with Kobe, and would like to see him back. I can’t compare the two players, because really they don’t play the same game at all, so I can appreciate both.

      • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

        Not all LeBron fans “hate” Kobe… Most fans just disagree who is more similar to MJ between the two of them. I used to dislike Kobe, but I grew to appreciate his game and admired his competitiveness & toughness. Kobe is one of the best players of all time. But its impossible to compare Kobe & LeBron until both of their careers are over, LeBron is 28, Kobe is 35, it makes no sense to compare them right now.

        As for Kobe’s new contract with the Lakers, I think that was the most selfish thing he could have done at this point in his career … If Kobe was serious about winning a 6th championship to match his idol MJ, then he would have taken a HUGE paycut to be able to sign 2 more superstars and have enough money left over for a decent supporting roster. Instead, The Lakers’ $48 million extension they gave Kobe Bryant this week has left them with enough cap space to either sign ‘one’ max player or to re-sign Pau Gasol next summer, but not both.