Kobe Bryant regularly defied the odds throughout his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, whether rising from the No. 13 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft to be the game’s best player, or forging ahead when it seemed his body couldn’t keep him upright.
Bryant often beat timetables for his various injuries; sprained ankle, broken fingers on his shooting hand, right shoulder injury, or knee trouble. Of course, there eventually came a time when Bryant’s fierce determination to remain on the court no longer was enough.
A torn rotator cuff, fracture in his left knee and Achilles tear ultimately combined to mark the beginning of the end for the five-time champion. And when it came close to calling it a career, there were nights Bryant didn’t play.
That’s become a popular trend in the current NBA culture, with the likes of Joel Embiid, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, among others, strategically being held out on any given night. That’s an approach Bryant said he could not have relegated himself to, per Frank Isola of The Athletic:
“The only time I took a game off is when I couldn’t walk.” Kobe Bryant says he never would have gone for LeBron-style “load management.”
In James’ defense, he has voiced a desire to continue playing. And while he recently missed games because of ‘load management,’ James’ latest absence was because of a sore left groin that he strained on Christmas.
In Leonard’s case, the Toronto Raptors have been mindful of his workload and usage this season as he’s coming off a lost year because of a quad injury.
Though it may come across as criticism, Bryant’s comment is simply another example of the stubbornness and determination that led to him becoming one of the NBA’s all-time greats.