Over the past few years, sports critics have been faulting the play of Kobe Bryant, chalking it up to old age. Now Bryant has a chance to silence all the doubters with this unusually lengthy off-season.
Los Angeles Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant, 33, is enjoying his longest hiatus since the 2005-06 NBA season. Bryant, who will be entering his 16th year in the NBA, all with the Lakers, is carrying a ton of miles and minutes as a player. With a grand total of 1,103 games and 40,145 minutes under his belt, the middle-aged veteran could use the rest.
Lakers fans demand excellence, so a season that does not end in a championship is usually considered a failure. So try to imagine the pressure Bryant puts on himself to maintain that standard year in and year out.
As a Laker, Bryant has met the fans’ expectations for greatness by making the playoffs 14 out of his 15 NBA seasons. Since 2006, his summers have been cut short due to deep playoff runs or surgeries that involved intense rehab.
As a player gets older, the first things to go are his legs, and more specifically, his knees. Bryant has been battling sporadic problems in his right knee, as well as his ankles over the past 3-4 years. Because being average is not acceptable for Kobe Bryant, he is constantly pushing through the pain and fatigue. His mindset is to never surrender. Not able to cope with failure, he takes it upon himself to carry his team when they are in dire need. Ultimately, this causes him to use more energy, adding more stress to his body.
With all his mental pushing, rough play, and determination, it is no wonder Bryant has looked physically tired towards the end of games in recent years. He has played too many games with too little rest the last four seasons, and this summer vacation is a great thing for him. It allows him to recuperate and get back to top physical condition.
Despite playing only five playoff games in 2007, it was Bryant’s decision to play for Team USA in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 that began his run of over working himself. In the summer of ’07, a time he would normally spend resting, he spent his time training, practicing, and playing qualifying games for USA.
The following 2007-08 NBA season, Bryant and the Lakers surged through the playoffs playing 21 games, which ultimately ended in a heart-breaking loss to their archenemy Boston Celtics in the Finals. A few weeks later, Kobe Bryant boarded a plane and headed for Beijing, China.
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