Los Angeles Lakers: Why Kobe Bryant Shouldn’t Have Rushed His Return


Will the insane drive of Kobe Bryant actually hurt the Los Angeles Lakers? Photo Credit: (thedanger23/Flickr.com)

On Friday, March 15, fans everywhere were stunned to learn that Kobe Bryant would be in the lineup when the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Indiana Pacers. Bryant was just two days removed from what looked like a fairly serious ankle injury after a late-game collision with Dahntay Jones of the Atlanta Hawks. The initial reports were that Kobe would be out “indefinitely,” then we gradually realized it would probably just be a few games, since this is Kobe we’re talking about. Then, just a few hours before the game it was revealed that he’d be playing that night and our minds were blown.

Even with Kobe being the iron man that he is and even with his team in the thick of a playoff push, this just seemed flat-out illogical. Wasn’t Kobe supposed to be seriously hurt? This felt like a stretch even for him? And sure enough, that turned out to be exactly the case. Kobe played the entire first quarter, but failed to record a point and missed every shot he attempted. After that, he was nowhere to be found for the rest of the night, and he wound up with his first scoreless game when playing a full quarter since 1998. If Kobe cares about his points per game, he probably wishes he had sat this one out.

Anyone who watched Kobe’s poor performance in the first quarter against the Pacers could tell that he hadn’t really recovered from the injury yet. This was one of the rare occasions where Kobe’s desire to never miss a game actually became a problem. Kobe’s the type of player who is hell-bent on being there for his team all the time. At times, it’s as though he barely even views injury as a real concept; no matter what’s wrong with him, he’s going to play and that’s that.

Most of the time, this is a noble quality to have and to be sure, there have been plenty of times when Kobe’s willingness to play hurt has buoyed the Lakers to victory in games they would have lost without him. This time, however, it proved to be a poor choice. Maybe Kobe genuinely thought he was capable of playing this game, but it feels like he rushed his recovery and paid for it with his poor performance.

But hey, it was just one game and since it’s Kobe, he’ll be back to his old self in no time and we can just forget this whole thing ever happened, right? Maybe, but don’t be sure. Playing when you obviously are still being heavily affected by an injury could have an averse effect on recovering form that injury. The smartest thing for Kobe to do was just lay low for a couple of games and let the ankle heal to the point where he could step onto a basketball court and play relatively close to his usual abilities, but Kobe’s drive got the better of him, and he came back too soon.

Now, the Lakers can only hope that Kobe didn’t make the situation worse by playing on ankle that obviously needed more time to get better. If Kobe is back to scoring 30 or so a night by this time next week, we’ll know that everything is fine and the problems with his ankle were just as fleeting as every other injury that Kobe’s been ailed by. But if we see him spending more and more time on the sidelines, or struggling to hit the jump shots that are usually cake for him, we’ll know that Kobe rushing himself onto the court had an averse affect on his recovery. Having a strong desire to play is a great thing, but it can be taken too far and by playing on Friday, Kobe stepped over the line. For his sake, we can only hope he didn’t make the situation worse.