• At around 3:30 a.m. local time, hours after leaving a must-win game against the Warriors with what he and the Lakers suspect is a torn Achilles tendon (MRI forthcoming), Kobe Bryant took to his Facebook page to voice his understandable frustrations with a normal basketball play causing a painful and serious injury (via SB Nation):
This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I've done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen ?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I'm supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that??
I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me...Then again maybe not! It's 3:30am, my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I'm wide awake. Forgive my Venting but what's the purpose of social media if I won't bring it to you Real No Image?? Feels good to vent, let it out. To feel as if THIS is the WORST thing EVER! Because After ALL the venting, a real perspective sets in. There are far greater issues/challenges in the world then a torn achilles. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever.
It's been said so many times before, but is worth reiterating in light of Friday night's events: Kobe Bryant is unbelievable.
• Mark Deeks dug up a year-old article from Kevin Pelton -- then of Basketball Prospectus, now of ESPN.com -- canvasing the modern history of NBA players who have suffered an Achilles tear. The message in the tea leaves is not a terribly optimistic one, a fact that Bryant himself confesses in his Facebook missive and in his postgame comments to reporters. The gist of Pelton's takeaway:
Of the 11 players I found with ruptured Achilles tendons in the last two decades, four (including Isiah Thomas, who retired at 32 following a ruptured Achilles) never played in the NBA again. Just four returned to play at the same level by my estimation, though Dominique Wilkins' successful comeback is notable. Wilkins made two All-Star teams after a ruptured Achilles suffered at 32 and played until age 39.
• The ever-poignant Jason Concepcion, aka "@netw3rk":
• Although Bryant's injury is undeniably the most tragic of all the various injuries the Lakers have faced this season, Tom Ziller of SB Nation has compiled a list of those ailments for an understanding of L.A.'s season in full. They aren't often discussed with the same general remorse as the often-injured Timberwolves, for example, but this has been a brutal year on the injury front for a top-heavy team.
• It didn't take long for players around the league to reach out to Bryant through social media:
• Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports uses his conversation with Tim Grover -- a personal trainer to Bryant, just as he was to Michael Jordan -- as a prism to consider what comes next:
With the way Grover works with Bryant, with the way they honed every muscle in the body, this star had forever sidestepped these monumental mishaps. Bryant's will is peerless, but a part of everyone had to understand that returning in nine months or a year from this injury doesn't mean returning to his old self again. It doesn't mean that Bryant won't be diminished. Bryant had been brilliant this season, and there's no assurance that'll ever be true again.
No, Bryant is too stubborn to go out that way – too immensely proud – but most fascinating will be how he returns to basketball, how dominant he'll still be. That will drive him now, that will be the inspiration he'll carry with him every day. Bryant had wondered whether he had the capacity to keep working so hard, to keep sacrificing so much in preparation for the seasons. For Bryant, the return from this torn Achilles will be one more thing that Michael Jordan never had to do, one more way to separate himself in history.
• Kobe Bryant, the last hero of Hero Ball.
• Rahat Huq, editor of the Rockets-centric Red 94, empathizes with the sensation that ended Bryant's season:
I just watched Kobe’s postgame lockerroom interview and he said that he knew the injury had occurred because he heard the pop. Not an achilles, but I tore my ACL completely three months ago and also heard “the pop.” Let me tell those of you who have been fortunate enough to have never torn any ligaments: “the pop” is the single loudest sound a person can hear in their life. It sounds literally like a firecracker, or a bullet being shot out of a gun.
• ESPN Stats and Information took the occasion as an opportunity to tabulate the absurd amount of basketball that Bryant has played -- a factor that is so often linked to an injury such as this one:
In his past seven games, Bryant has played 95 percent of the minutes, and he has played 47 minutes four times. Compare that to the first 71 games of the season, during which he never played 47 minutes and was on the court for only 80 percent of the possible minutes.
On top of his 17 NBA regular seasons, Bryant has played 8,638 minutes in 220 playoff games. Plus he played another 747 minutes in winning gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
The playoff and Olympic minutes add up to more than three seasons worth of time, which means he has played the equivalent of more than 20 NBA regular seasons.
• In addition to examining the current state of the Lakers, Eric Freeman of Ball Don't Lie reflected on Bryant's injury as it relates to the league as a whole:
Ultimately, the greatest impact of Bryant's absence will be to the NBA as a whole. Kobe has been a constant in the NBA for several eras of the league, from the end of Michael Jordan's reign of dominance through the Lakers' own period of excellence in the early '00s and into a new period in which LeBron James looks to be the king of the NBA. Kobe and the Lakers have seen their relevance dip throughout that timeframe, but he has always imposed his will on proceedings to make sure that fans, analysts, and opponents would not take his presence lightly. No player works harder to keep himself from seeing a precipitous drop in production — which is also why he'll probably try like heck to work his way back — and Kobe's 2012-13 season may go down as one of the most impressive offensive campaigns in his illustrious career. Simply put, he is as much a part of the NBA's personality and public image as anyone in the league.
• Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, no stranger to serious injury, connected with Bryant's brutal postgame press scrum (via BDL):
• In his write-up for ESPN Los Angeles, Arash Markazi succinctly captured the mood of the Lakers' locker room after the game:
Players dressed quietly in front of their lockers, answering questions from reporters with soft whispers as if they were speaking at a funeral. "It's sad to see him go down like this," Dwight Howard said. "He works so hard just to play. ... I could just see it in his face. When you injure yourself to the point where you can't play, it hurts. It's a deep hurt."