Then Steve Nash broke his leg on the second game of the season, which was bad luck considering the season had barely started. But nobody could have predicted the debilitating bad luck that would follow the Lakers throughout the season. After Nash was injured, key Lakers players started dropping like flies. Steve Blake, the backup point guard who was filling in for an injured Steve Nash, had to get abdominal surgery. Then went Jordan Hill, one of the few bench players who could add some energy to the game.
With the Lakers floundering into an unimpressive 18 and 25 record, the purple and gold’s season in no way resembled their pre-season championship projections. To stifle any further hope that the Lakers may have held onto in this abnormally unsuccessful season, Dwight Howard suffered a partially torn labrum, while still struggling with a surgically repaired back. It did not seem that anything worse could go wrong for this supposed dream team, but while Howard was playing through injuries, the Lakers’ other towering front court force, Pau Gasol, injured his foot and was out for more than a month.
Once the injury plague subsided about a month ago, the Lakers found themselves having a measurable amount of success, and dare I say it in a familiar place: a playoff spot. However once the Lakers became a bit comfortable playing with one another, the Lakers’ staunch defender, Metta World Peace, suffered a knee injury which required surgery. However, only twelve days after going under the knife, Metta World Peace found himself back on the court, and everything seemed to be going right for once.
Recently the Lakers have held their fate in their own hands for once. In a thrilling game against the Golden State Warriors on Friday, the Lakers were on a roll and headed to the playoffs it seemed, but with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter, the injury bug was resurrected. On a routine move driving left, Kobe Bryant crumpled to the ground and began to stare at his achilles as if it had done some strange act. To Kobe it had done exactly that, and for the first time in his life, he suffered a debilitating injury that not even he, the Black Mamba, could play through. After the game, despite winning a crucial game against a tough opponent, the atmosphere in the Lakers locker room was as if they had just gotten eliminated from the playoffs altogether. And they might as well have been, because when the news came that Kobe would be out for 6-9 months from a torn achilles, everybody knew that even if they got to the playoffs, in no way did they stand a fighting chance.
But to put it in perspective, the way the floundering Lakers have played this season they did not stand a chance against the top-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. What is most important is the fact that a 34 year-old Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest players of our generation, has suffered an injury that has ended the careers of the likes of Isiah Thomas, who was only 32 at the time of his injury. It is uncertain if Kobe will even be able to play any longer, much less dominate the way he has at his age.
So what does this mean to Kobe’s legacy? If he decides to call it quits right now, Kobe will have ended his playing career with 5 NBA Championships, 2 Finals MVPs, 1 NBA MVP, and 2 scoring titles. In his seventeen seasons, playing at an elite level, Kobe would average more than 25 points per game and be fourth on the all-time scoring list, less than a thousand behind Michael Jordan. If there was any time that was ideal for Kobe to retire on top, it would be now, especially having one of the greatest seasons ever considering his age.
Kobe’s greatest desire is to win another NBA Championship ring, to reach that number six and thus be considered among the greats with Michael Jordan, but as of right now the future seems very bleak for that goal. Kobe may not even play a majority of the season next year coming off of a major surgery.
I hope with all of my heart as a lifelong Lakers fan and Los Angeles native, but more importantly a basketball fan, that this is not the end for Kobe Bryant.
But if it is, I just consider myself lucky to have witnessed one of the greatest careers, by one of the fiercest competitors to have every played the game.