Bryant’s Torch Burns Bright, Without Doubts In Latest Injury Comeback

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
(Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – Zero. Less than zero even, if that’s possible.

Kobe Bryant didn’t delve into negative numbers Monday night in a hallway at United Center, but that’s the level of doubt he felt about his next return from injury. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar, out since Dec. 17 with a fracture in his left knee, didn’t hedge or blink when asked about the likelihood that he’ll come back as the player he was before.

Not just before this latest setback but before the left Achilles-tendon blowout he suffered in April, cutting short his 2012-13 season.

“Zero. Zero,” Bryant said, repeating for emphasis his doubt about his playing future and the quality of his game when he gets there. “There was [doubt] before I came back the first time, because I didn’t know how my Achilles was going to respond to playing, to changing directions. The game in Memphis, I felt I had a pretty good feel for it. I felt like I was getting back to doing what I normally could do.

“So I feel pretty confident about it.”

Bryant fast-tracked his return from the Achilles injury, missing the first six weeks of 2013-14 rather than several months. He came back Dec. 8 against Toronto and lasted six games. Bryant scored 20 points three times and had his minutes up to 32 per night when his left knee gave out.

The timetable now is for Bryant, 35, to be examined again after the Lakers’ current seven-game “Grammy” trip. While some — including Lakers legend Magic Johnson — have suggested Bryant sit out the balance of the season for either his own recovery or to boost the team’s lottery odds, Bryant made it sound like a February return, before or after All-Star weekend, is inevitable.

This media opportunity, coming in Derrick Rose‘s gym, meant he was asked about the Bulls’ MVP, who also is sidelined by his second serious injury in two years (and isn’t expected back till October). While Bryant’s response dealt with Rose, it surely applied to him as well, a nod to the drive and will he long has been known for and the younger Rose still is developing.

“Really there’s not too much you can do about it,” Bryant said. “It’s unfortunate, but you have two options. One is to lay down. The second is get up and get to work. I think the second one is more appealing [to Rose] for sure.”

Bryant touched on a number of things in his state-of-the-Mamba address, including the Lakers’ other injuries, their midseason status (16-25 prior to tipoff) and the state of the league. Among the topics:

  • He made it abundantly clear that he won’t be joining Team USA in the 2016 Olympics, but teased that he’d be an eager spectator to watch Lakers teammate Pau Gasol play for Spain again.
  • The most noticeable change in NBA basketball since his arrival in 1996? “It’s more of a finesse game. It’s more small ball. Which, personally, I don’t really care much for,” Bryant said. Like so many from the old-school – even at 35, Bryant qualifies – he is befuddled at the soft stuff now that passes for physical play. “Makes me nauseous,” he said. “You can’t touch a guy.”
  • The rule against hand-checking has made it easier for players to shine offensively, Bryant said. “Nowadays, anybody can get out there and get to the basket – you can’t touch ‘em,” he said. “Back then, if you have guys putting their hands on you, you have to have the skills to be able to go both ways, change directions, post up and have that mid-range game, because you didn’t want to go all the way to the basket because you’d get knocked [down].”
  • He’s no fan of the NBA’s one-and-done arrangement with NCAA basketball, which no longer permits players such as Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James to turn pro immediately after high school. “I think it worked out pretty well for all three of us,” Bryant said. “The system really isn’t teaching players anything when you go to college. … I’m always a firm believer in us being able to make our own decision.”

Bryant spoke in a hallway adorned with a floor-to-ceiling Michael Jordan photo, in an arena that Jordan and the Bulls’ championship teams of the 1990s built, with Jordan’s bronze likeness outside, the spark for what has become a sports statue craze across America. Many see him as Jordan’s successor, bracketed between Grant Hill‘s injury-derailed superstardom and what still is James at full strength, yet the most Michael-like of them all.

The NBA timeline has pulsed with an informal passing-of-the-torch from Elgin Baylor and Oscar Robertson to Julius Erving, to Larry Bird and Johnson, to Jordan, Bryant, James and beyond.

Asked about that, Bryant said he saw time’s passage and the game’s history differently.

“I’ve never looked at is as torches being passed,” he said. “As a kid growing up, I always looked at it as these athletes representing different things. So what Magic represented to the game, what Bird represented to the game, was different from what Michael represents.

“It’s not the same torch. They’re picking up their own thing and carrying their own generation.”

40 Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    Only them two (Michael/Kobe)are above of the great ones…!! Kings don’t go team up with other stars they take their kingdom to the glory. Imagin if they would have done what James did?they(Michael/Kobe)wouldn’t be the real kings . Which team is going to hang lebrons jersey when it’s all set and done for him the cavs, the heat,the..,the.., the, common man you ain’t no king period homie. That’s the easy way to get championships.have pride like Barkley,reggiemiller,patrickeuwing,etc…
    I want to see who are you teaming up with to help you win more championships. And you are the king please they’re only two Michael/ Kobe even the name sound good together!!!!!!

  2. GM says:

    Kobeis a first year hall of famer when he retired but game has changed when pat riley and the knicks messed that up but the handchecking rule is a major part of it but what really clean up the game when metta world peace aka ron artest and the malace at the palace occured. But I like how the game is played right now.

  3. LS says:

    Kobe is without a doubt a legend. I don’t know anything about him personally but love his game, work ethic and commitment to being the best he can be. I wish he could bottle that and sell it to some of the guys who are in the NBA right now. I’m not impressed with most of the play that’s presented (and hyped) as professional basketball these days. Too many players believing the media hype about themselves — they’re great because someone said they were. Whether he comes back, comes back as strong or not, he’s carved his name in basketball history. The only thing I might disagree with him about is guys being able to enter the NBA after high school. The examples he gave of people who were successful at it are exceptions, not the general rule.

  4. Paul Friedericks says:

    Miss you Kobe
    You´re the best
    Those boring NBA players makes me sick
    Come back Bro

  5. hellon says:

    I hope that Kobe will really be in his best form for his last years.It’s a pleasure to see on of the league legends still playing. And again,another person is right with nowadays rules.I miss hard defensive plays,possibility of expressioning emotions after dunk and the list could go on…

  6. ImJusSayin says:

    And to think Wilt scored 100 in an era were today’s flagrant might not even be called.

  7. jg says:

    bye bye bryant.

  8. lorhanz14 says:

    kobe get amare stadumire and carmelo anthiby to help nash and gasol in pic and rool+ more 3 pointers more good..
    PG=nash
    SG=KObe
    SF=carmelo
    PF/C either AMARE STADUMIRE and Pau ;D

  9. The Voice In The Distance says:

    Bryant coming back probably won’t make that much difference to the Lakers. They won’t be much if any better with him in the team. The only thing he does well now is putting up numerous shots, his defending is almost none existent in recent years.
    Maybe he doesn’t like the “small ball” because he’s not quick enough to keep up anymore, but it’s funny that he claims not to like the hand checking rule when nobody has benefited more from it than him. It is a rule that has helped him to look good over those years since it was brought in. He benefits more from “superstar” treatment than most if not all over the last decade or so. Players can barely look at him sometimes without being whistled and he mouths off to officials for several seconds, but how many technical fouls does he get?!

  10. giovanni says:

    getting the sixth would be the most extraordinary result in sport for a 35yold with this injury history.

  11. Stern H8r says:

    I am loving this season…just keeps getting better and better.You would think that after all of the examples (many of them very sad) of pro athlete’s not understanding that they are going to be weaker’slower/less productive after injuries and age 35, that someone like Kobe would be able to understand and learn from that. But here he is saying he is going to be as good as his peak. He’s just an uneducated, ignorant kid who never had to grow up and be a man. Time for your big-boy life to begin Kobe. But yes…as a hater, I am loving his denial and decline.

  12. FrankL2010 says:

    Uhmmm I can’t really understand why most of us HATE a certain guy and yet love reading articles about him. Come on guys, we are just so good in giving critics but we can never do what these guys on the court are doing, even 50%. We might have played basketball, but these guys made it to the NBA making them way ahead of us. Personally, I don’t want injuries in any team… by then, whichever team that will be champion in the end can really be called a CHAMPION.

  13. lol says:

    Delusional as always, Noobe Bryant gotta accept that his body will never be like it was pre injury, 17 seasons on his back are too much, he should retire before he makes even more a fool of himself.

  14. mee(a)t says:

    Wow you have to go to college now to get into the NBA.

  15. jmk says:

    Magic is wrong, Kobe playing this season will actually boost the team’s lottery odds, sad as it is.
    The Laker´s problem is the defense, not a surprise with that coach, but players are also to blame.

  16. dustydreamnz says:

    The change of the hand checking rule was excellent, it was too easy for the defence.
    Kobe is signed for a while yet so doubt the Lakers will rebuild now.
    To the people that say Kobe come to the Heat, Melo come to the Heat, Love come to the heat. Don’t forget about salary caps and what the players want to do. Some players probably turned down playing alongside Michael Jordan because they didn’t want to live in Chicago etc.
    Kobe doesn’t want to play in the All Star Game, well he doesn’t think he deserves selection.

  17. Don says:

    The hand checking rule change is critical. If MJ, Kobe, Bird, Magic etc., did not have to adjust to it, they would have all scored 50 points per game. LOL. I also agree that guards back in the day were knocked on their behinds without TF’s, The game has become softer, period. Good luck in your come back Kobe.

    • Kome the Black Dumba says:

      After the lockout season in 99? The league kinda want to let the players play soft ball to get the ratings up again since MJ retired. Iverson(which I love) carries almost every time on his cross-over.
      Kobe played like 2/3 years of so called rough ball and acted like he played in the 80s? And he doesn;t like soft ball? He got the most benefit of it! Kobe, you wouldn’t survive in the 80s rough style, stick to your soft ball, pull up your big boy pants and come back and lead the league in turnovers again. Get well soon!

  18. RyanKoKlick says:

    Man one thinh kobe will average next two years 20 points an 5reb an 5 ast 1 stl with ease save my name email two years from now if it didnt happen let me here it lol but if it does RespecT KoBe As a Great old man come on he came back with Alot of Rust an still had 3 20pt games with no workouts with anyone no preseason now thats Crazy cause most people in nba wont see 20 pt game ever

  19. HOOP says:

    Clocks run out…Its rebuilding time for the Lakers right now.
    Its time for the OKC boys to make their mark on the hall of fame..

  20. NyK says:

    I believe he’s still got something left in the tank. I don’t get to catch many Lakers games cause I’m out of market but it seems like right now at best they have some solid role players with the exception of Gasol and Nash but Gasol is struggling in the offense and Nash’s back is questionable, He just needs a few additional pieces around him to make a serious run next year.

  21. Kobe should take a backseat to Nick Young!! these days kobes days are numbered. Lakers wont reach playoffs again with kobe in team or at best out 1st round. next year kobes last year in nba. HE WILL STRUGGLE WITH INJURIES, TEAMS AND YOUNG GUNS WILL TARGET HIM, KOBES BODY WILL BREAK DOWN and probly shoot high 30%. ball hog. Gasol will get frustrated with lack of touches. for lakers future he should of retired! Lakers will be back but not untill Kobe leaves

    • NSJ says:

      Wow, you must have a really high basketball IQ

    • thefranchise says:

      wow, nick young for kobe? seriously? kobe’s just 35. leave the fortune telling out of basktball

    • qeqeqwqew says:

      they wont reach the playoffs this year! and youre right, but can you blame them? look at their injuries, just because their team name is Lakers you cant lock them in for a playoff spot, Lakers got a lottery roster right now with all those injuries.

      Not a Laker fan btw.

      And I dont get why you write all those stupid things about kobe, Hating on the best thing that happend to the nba since jordan.

  22. stratofender says:

    optimism is one of the greatest indicators of how successful you’ll be – that’s kobe. the ball is round. we can never tell what’s going to happen next. haha! well, i also like lebron. LOL!

  23. d1 says:

    play in all star

    • Apex Predator says:

      He should not be considered an all star 1st of all. Not having played in almost the entire 1st half of the season.

      All star should mean the top 13-15 players in the East and West who have played well in the 1st half of the season. Not players that just has a name behind them. The NBA should adjust the voting and entry process.

      An example, IF Lebron or Durant lets say were terrible in the 1st half of the season. I will bet a million dollars that people will still vote them in because their names are Lebron and KD.

      • aa says:

        DUUUH.you dont say-.- ofcourse they would, KD, lebron and kobe got the biggest fanbase in the nba, they will be allstars for the rest of their careers, but Lebron and kd will probaly play like allstars aswell until their retirement,

  24. Tom says:

    Heat got it’s last ring with LBJ, Cb, and DW. Period!

    • Nick Banks says:

      Bull S*** ray Allen buzzer beater in the finals. Stupid don’t ever write anything on here again

  25. D WADE says:

    Melo come to the Lakers

  26. jdub455 says:

    kobe wants to get his 7th ring??? join the heat baby! haha… all time great player but past his prime… its brons, PG, and KDs era now…

    • Mark says:

      6th ring dude

    • jake s. says:

      Heat already have Ray Allen. OKC would have to pick him up.

      • Lakers says:

        Duran’s future will be 10x brighter if he comes to LA. Not sure if he can handle the magnitude thats why he stays in OkC

    • Kareem Foy says:

      I think its ridiculous how much people are on paul george. He has been good one year. last year he was becoming good. the amount of credit this dude gets is crazy to me. how you gonna put him in the same category as the best players in the nba. There are several players i would say could do what hes doing and more the past 8 seasons. who have done it for over 2 years and dont get enough credit. People say hes better than wade. wade was doing more than that. THey say he can go one on one with bron. no he cant. Wade used to go one on one with bron. I think people forget. Carmelo could go at him. brandon roy b4 his injury would kill pg. Kobe. Cp3. Monte ellis has been doing what hes doing. Please stop with the pg nonsense. hes nothing new.