Kobe Bryant suffered a torn Achilles on Friday that will keep him out until the beginning of next season at the very least, but some have wondered if the injury could turn out to end the Lakers guard’s career.
That answer belongs only to Kobe Bryant.
At 34, Kobe has now spent nearly half of his life in the NBA, and though he’s closer to the end of his career he hasn’t showed many signs of slowing. Kobe keep himself in superior shape, rivaling even the younger stars of the league, and he certainly would be physically capable of whatever rehab is needed.
He also has a famously rigorous work ethic. This has actually helped some of the league’s younger stars, as players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony saw and emulated Bryant’s famous workouts through their playing together on Team USA.
Kobe Bryant’s injury will come as a blow to the Lakers this year. The team had recovered from a slow start to pull into playoff position, mainly because Kobe has put the team on his shoulders.
After guaranteeing that the Lakers would make the playoffs earlier this season, Kobe has delivered. He averaged 45.2 minutes per game in April, the most for an entire month during his entire career.
The Lakers have an option of cutting Bryant loose before next season. He’s due $30.4 million in the last year of his contract, and the team has the option of cutting him under the new amnesty clause.
That seems unlikely. The team has undergone an expensive transformation, acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, but Kobe is still the centerpiece of the team.
Lakers owner Mitch Kupchak seemed optimistic that Kobe Bryant could make it back by next season.
“Speaking to him this morning, that certainly was his goal,” Kupchak said. “I think it would be aggressive to think he could be ready for training camp … (but for the season opener) I think that’s a goal. I think that’s a realistic goal for him.”
Basically, only Kobe Bryant can decide when Kobe Bryant’s career is over.