Kobe Bryant, perhaps the best player of his generation, suffered a torn left Achilles tendon Friday night, ending his season and putting into question his Hall of Fame career.
With tears in his eyes, the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar confirmed the worst news to hit the team in a season already full of heartbreaking disappointments.
Bryant sustained the injury in his left leg in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 118-116 win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday. If the Lakers make the playoffs, their chances of doing anything without Bryant are nil.
“Just terrible,” Bryant said. “It’s a terrible feeling, man.”
Bryant will undergo an MRI on Saturday, but the team is calling the injury a “probable” and “complete tear.”
Bryant fell to the floor with 3:08 remaining in the fourth quarter while being guarded by the Warriors’ Harrison Barnes. Bryant had played every minute of the game up to that point, scoring 32 points in the process — including back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game with 3:45 remaining. “I made a move that I make a million times and it just popped,” said Bryant.
Bryant asked Barnes if he had kicked him in the leg. When Barnes said he hadn’t, Bryant said he knew that a major injury had occurred.
“I was just hoping it wasn’t what I knew it was,” Bryant said. “Just trying to walk it off, hoping that the sensation would come back, but no such luck.”
Following a timeout, Bryant went back into the game and hit both of his free throw attempts with the injury to end his night with 34 points, five rebounds and four assists before being subbed out for Metta World Peace and heading to the locker room.
“MRI, surgery and then recovery,” Bryant replied when asked what his next step is. “I was really tired, man. Just tired in the locker room and dejected and thinking about this mountain to overcome. I mean, this is a long process and wasn’t sure I could do it. Then your kids walk in and you’re like, ‘I need to set an example. Daddy is going to be fine.’ I can do it. Work hard and just go from there.”
Recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles can take anywhere from three months to a year.
“I’ve never really had to deal with something like this,” said Bryant. “It’s a new experience for me. Obviously, there’s been a bunch of players that have had the same injury, so, all I can do is look at them and what they’ve done and who had more success coming back quicker and healthier and see what they did and see if I can improve upon it.”
Bryant said the injury is “by far” the biggest disappointment of his career that has included scoring more than 30,000 points, being named an All-Star in 15 of his 17 seasons, five championships including two Finals MVP awards and a regular-season MVP, but he tried to remain optimistic.
“It’s fueling me, it’s fueling me,” Bryant said. “I can feel it already. It’s just players at this stage of their career, they pop Achilles and the pundits say they never come back the same. So I can hear it already and it’s pissing me off right now thinking about it.”
Bryant, who played an average of 45.7 minutes in his past seven games including Friday’s leading up to the injury, was asked if all the playing time could have left him vulnerable.
“Who knows,” Bryant said. “It was all necessary. It’s just a freak situation, I guess.”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was asked about the decision to leave the 34-year-old Bryant in so long.
“It is like putting my head against a wall and he just wouldn’t budge on (resting),” D’Antoni said. “And there is a part of me that didn’t want him to budge because he’s incredible. It is one of those things. If I had it all to do over again, then maybe (I would sit him). I will second-guess it and look at it, but he is an incredible competitor and it happened and we will go forward.”
Bryant finishes the season with averages of 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists.