Kobe Bryant announced his return from injury through a video on the LA Lakers Facebook page Friday (watch below). The video, titled ‘Seasons of Legend’, features Kobe’s 24 jersey remaining strong through various forces of nature attacking it. It ends with the phrase, “The Legend Continues… December 8.”
Bryant’s return from the achilles injury that sidelined him last April has been the subject of much speculation. The Lakers’ star is 35 years old and returning from one of the most serious injuries a professional athlete can suffer. Some even wondered if the injury would end his career. The Lakers responded to the concerns about Kobe’s health by giving him a two year contract extension on November 25.
Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said he never doubted that Kobe would return to the Laker lineup this season. “Modern medicine and the way he is, yeah, I thought he’d come back,” D’Antoni said. D’Antoni and the Lakers feel that Kobe can have an immediate impact.
“He’ll be a dominant player,” D’Antoni said. “He can play any way. He can play below the rim, above the rim, beside the rim. I mean, the guy can play any way. He’ll figure out how he’ll be effective and then he’ll come at you with everything he’s got. That’s been his M.O., and I think that’s what he’ll do.”
How much Kobe will play in his return against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday remains to be seen. Kobe believes he will play a much reduced role in the early going, but expects to pick it up as he adjusts to live NBA action again.
“Getting your sea legs, it takes some time to do that,” Bryant said. “That’s why we have preseason games and it builds to the regular season. It just takes a while, no matter how much running and conditioning you do, to get out there and play is different. So I’m sure I’ll be limited in some capacity.”
So far this season, the Lakers have managed to stay relevant without Kobe. With the help of role players like Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson, the Lakers have put together a respectable 10-9 record. If Kobe is able to blend with some of the new Laker players, they have a real shot to make a push for the NBA playoffs. For now, Kobe Bryant is just focused on his return from the injury that almost ended his career.