It’s been just over two years since Kobe Bryant played his final game for the Los Angeles Lakers, but the memories of his accomplishments have not faded. He spent two decades playing, providing countless moments of joy to the legion of Lakers fans around the world.
Yet, one moment consistently pulls at the heartstrings. On April 12, 2013, Bryant was fighting through one injury after another as he tried to drag his team to victory against the Golden State Warriors.
With just minutes left, Bryant drove past Harrison Barnes, was fouled, and then crumpled to the floor. His Achilles had torn.
It’s one of the most devastating injuries an athlete can face but Bryant still managed to hobble to the line to sink a crucial pair of free throws before walking off the floor to an uncertain future.
It’s a painful memory for Lakers fans, but one that encapsulates who Bryant was as a player. No matter the obstacle, he believed he could overcome it. Even with his Achilles torn, the team needed him to make those free throws, so he did.
Bryant appeared on “The Jim Rome Podcast” and explained his thinking during that difficult moment and why he decided to shoot the free throws:
“I didn’t think of it that way. I was just like, ‘OK, well, I still have to shoot these free throws.’ It wasn’t a thought process of, ‘OK, I can’t shoot these.’ It was no, we need these free throws, and I can shoot them, so I’m going to shoot them. I wasn’t thinking maybe I should come out. I’ve still got to finish this job. You know, I’ve got to do this thing. And then when I was walking I was trying to figure out how I could finish the game.”
With Bryant out, the Lakers would be swept in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Bryant eventually returned to the team but was never able to hit the level of play that he was at before the injury.
Still, as dark of a moment as it was, Bryant’s Achilles tear provides just another example of what made him extraordinary. Facing one of the most devastating injuries in sports he still managed to find a way to get the job done and hit his free throws, which helped the Lakers pick up a much-needed win.
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