Divisional Rival Tribute: Kobe Bryant
On a night when Stephen Curry scored 47 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, his outrageous performance had to take a backseat to another story.
The Lakers won powered by Pau Gasol’s 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists as well as Kobe Bryant’s 34 points; but that’s not the main story here.
With a little over three minutes left in the game, Bryant fell to the ground and seemed in pain. He gathered himself and nailed his two free throws and then headed straight to the locker room.
By game’s end, the news broke out. The Black Mamba had a torn Achilles heel.
After the game, a visibly shaken Bryant fought back tears when addressing his status with the media.
This is a sad day for all of those involved with the NBA.
Whether rooting for or against the former league MVP, he always garnered respect. Bryant is unquestionably one of the most feared athletes of his generation and undoubtedly the most revered.
Very few throughout the rich history of the Association have matched his sustained level of excellence for such a prolonged period of time.
His catalog is the envy of many.
Most of his would be challengers have faded over time and almost invoke ridicule when we think back to the days they were actually part of a Kobe discussion. Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter all had their opportunities but failed for the most part.
Ray Allen is one of the few players that’s matched Bryant’s longevity and given him fits throughout their respective careers but he is currently backing up a Kobe nemesis in Dwyane Wade for the Miami Heat.
It’s worth noting that Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden and LeBron James have effectively wrestled the torch away from Bryant, but not completely.
The Black Mamba never truly let go despite being in the league for 17 seasons and playing at an incredibly high level. That’s what makes the injury so gut wrenching.
Kobe Bryant wasn’t hanging on, he was carrying the franchise and being voted a top five NBA player in the process. Thus, this is a devastating injury not only for the Lakers, but also for the NBA.
Let’s face it, the Lakers are the league’s marquee franchise. Hence, with their signature player now shelved not only for this season but also potentially for a huge chunk of next season, it completely alters the landscape of the NBA.
Bryant’s injury affects the direction of the franchise and consequently alters the Pacific division. Dwight Howard is a free agent at the end of the season and it was expected that Pau Gasol would get traded in the offseason given the team’s huge salary commitments.
But now what?
These are all questions the front office must now deal with it. But more importantly, have we seen the last of Kobe Bryant?
The consensus is that not only will he play again, but he will suit up as a Laker. Our very own Ethan Sherwood Strauss had this to share in this most recent installment of ESPN.com’s 5-on-5:
Kobe will play for the Lakers again, probably next season. I’m no doctor, but it’s difficult to see both sides deciding against giving that Achilles another run in purple and gold.
The Lakers’ all-time leading scorer is gone. His competitive fire still burns and hopefully we see it again as he makes a triumphant return in less than 12 months.
Kobe Bryant as well as basketball fans worldwide deserve that much.
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