Kobe Bryant's 2012-13 season ended in gruesome fashion when he tore his left Achilles tendon during an April game against the Warriors. Well, it actually ended after the Lakers' All-Star guard walked back onto the court after a timeout to take two free throws following the initial injury.
That decision to keep playing rather than head immediately to the locker room -- not to mention the fact that he made both shots -- will always have a place in Kobe lore. While speaking with Nike employees at the apparel manufacturer's Oregon headquarters on Friday, Bryant explained what exactly was going through his mind at the time of the injury, which occurred as he attempted to drive to his left past Harrison Barnes.
"When I first did it, right there, I was trying to feel if the tendon is there or if it's gone," Bryant recalled, in comments recorded by Nike. "I realized it wasn't there. I was literally trying to pull the tendon up so hopefully I could walk and kind of hobble through the last two and a half minutes and try to play."
It's safe to say that the free throws were just the beginning of his plan.
Of course, the reality of his injury did kick in, and Bryant hobbled to the locker room after sinking the pair. The injury would require season-ending surgery.
“I made a move I’ve made a million times and it popped,” Bryant said afterwards, calling the injury “by far” the biggest disappointment of his career.
Bryant, 35, has been unbelievably durable during his 17 seasons, playing more than 45,000 regular season minutes and more than 8,000 playoff minutes. He averaged a team-leading 27.3 points, 6. assists and 5.6 rebounds in 2012-13, helping the Lakers sneak into the playoffs despite a disappointing season.
“It’s just [expletive] luck,” he continued at the time. “I was pissed and sad [walking off the court], we worked really hard to get to this point. I was pissed.”
It's unclear whether Bryant will be available when the Lakers face the Clippers on Oct. 29, the opening night of the 2013-14 season, but he was cleared to run on an anti-gravity treadmill back in August.
“I’m feeling pretty good, stronger than I was," Bryant said during an interview with TimeOutDubai.com earlier this week. "I’m ahead of [my recovery] schedule…I don’t know [whether] that means I’ll start the season – I hope so.”
Bryant, the NBA's highest-paid player, is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $30.5 million, He needs just 676 points to move past Michael Jordan for the No. 3 spot on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Video via YouTube user NBillets