In the passionate and intense world of Lakers basketball, one man is at the center of it all: Kobe Bryant.
Bryant has been a fixture in the city of Los Angeles for quite some time now and it is truly devastating to think that his run will conclude relatively soon. Ever since his teenage years, the bright lights of LA have forcefully beamed down on Bryant and watching his story unfold has been a delight for not only Laker fans, but NBA fans as well.
From the days of the late 90’s where he wowed millions with his thunderous jams in the slam dunk contest, to the ever so sweet lob to Shaq against the Portland Trailblazers in Game 7 of the 2000 WCF, Bryant has mastered it all.
Scoring binges, facial dunks, an uncountable number of three pointers as the opponent stared blankly longing for a miss, Bryant has introduced the Laker fan base to some of the most glorious moments in basketball history.
After two unsuccessful postseason runs in 2011 and 2012, the Lakers’ fortunes seemingly changed in the summer due to a warily planned offseason by the front office.
The acquisition of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard prematurely painted the Lakers as favorites, as many thought they could obliterate the opposition with pick and roll efficiency, skillful play from forward Pau Gasol and dominant play from Bryant as the season brushed along.
The regular season proved that to be extremely untrue, as the Lakers were crippled by injuries, a coaching change a mere 5 games into the season and a lack of cohesion that is imperative to success in any environment. The Lakers’ roster as a whole missed a total of 184 games, which simply highlights the problems they had with remaining healthy.
Frustrations amassed and a sense of doubt emerged from not only external sources, but internal as well.
Dwight Howard’s commitment was questioned severely, rumors swirled around of a physical altercation between Bryant and Howard and some players were frustrated with their role on the team.
One thing slightly overlooked in the nightmarish season the Lakers endured was the individual success Kobe Bryant had.
Bryant was spectacular in every facet – with the exception of defense – and constantly put on performances that were made to marvel at. Bryant averaged 27.3 points per game which was good enough for third best in the league, all while tying Monta Ellis for most assists per game among shooting guards. Add in 5 rebounds per game and the numerous amount of times Bryant staved off defeat for the Lakers and you have a very respectable season.
Bryant did everything in his power to generate success for the Lakers and the fashion in which it was done was remarkable.
The five time champion crammed home thunderous dunks, punctured the defense with precision passing and demoralized the opposition with his patented silky smooth fadeaway jumper. The Lower Merion high school graduate promised all Laker fans the postseason, something many would have branded as ludicrous at the beginning of the season as championship aspirations were all that was lobbed around.
On one Friday in April, the Lakers played an important game against the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers absolutely needed this victory to have the notion of the playoffs feasible. Every victory was crucial, every possession vital, each waining second monumental to what the Lakers wanted to accomplish. Would all the work of the offseason be casted into the shadows? What would the future hold?
In Bryant’s eyes, the future held a victory for the Lakers and he had every intention on working his tail off the make sure that trend trotted on for awhile.
At the 3:09 mark on April 12 against the Warriors, Bryant took a forceful step as he planned on waltzing his way to the basket. He was hindered by some type of ailment which at the time could not be pinpointed. The fans in attendance and the millions watching at home had their breath taken, wondering if Bryant would stand up again and strut up and down the court they have grown accustomed to seeing.
Bryant limped up as all the fans fearfully gazed at the 6’6″ shooting guard as he slowly made his way to the bench. He conversed with Gary Vitti and then inched his way back onto the court to shoot the free throws he was promised. As he launched these free throws you could see the fear and hurt dance in his eyes, dribbling all throughout his pupils a mere reflection of what he does with a basketball on the court.
Bryant then preceded to limp back to the bench, and into the locker room. Into a world of uncertainty and the depths of despair.
Time and time again Bryant had been hampered by some type of injury, simply just to overcome the obstacle that was squarely planted in front of him. Many were under the assumption Bryant would play within the next minute. If not the next minute the next game. If not the next game the next week. None of these assumptions were true, as that very night devastating news was delivered throughout the basketball world. Kobe Bean Bryant had torn his Achilles’ tendon and would not be playing basketball any time soon.