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Kobe Bryant's Heroic Final Act

Kobe Bryant's Achilles surgery was successful, but the end of his season offered an opportunity to reflect on the warrior-like passion of the Lakers star.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As has become far too regularly an occurrence this season with the Lakers, Dr. Stephen Lombardo joined a doctor in performing an operation on a player.

    This time, it was Dr. Neal ElAttrache who joined Dr. Lombardo operating on Kobe Bryant, and the surgery was initially deemed a success.

    Alright Neal, you were the man trusted to fix our greatest warrior. You fixed the Achilles of our modern day Achilles (interesting side note: ElAttrache also performed a 90-minute procedure on the Los Angeles Dodgers Zack Greinke on the same day).

    Kobe Bryant is a warrior, and Friday night was a tragic event in his story. 

    Frankly, I didn’t see the play where he tore his Achilles live in person. Usually, I would be in my seat behind the basket, but this time, I watched the foul call on the big screen because I forgot my charger in the media room. Considering the 200-foot walk from the media tunnel to my seat on the opposite baseline, I reached center court about the time Kobe realized he had torn his Achilles. Keeping my eyes on him the entire time, I knew he was done, and I told Time Warner Cable’s John Laguna that he wasn’t going to be OK before I took my seat.

    Bryant had uttered a four letter word that was not uncommon on the basketball court, but the expression on his face was one of helplessness and vulnerability, not anger and frustration.

    When he stepped up to the free throw line, I was shocked.

    I intently took mental notes on his lack of movement at the line. When the foul was taken to get him out of the game, I completely understood that the individual result of that game would be forgotten, but Bryant’s acts would not. 

    For the Lakers, it was a meaningful game for the playoff chase, but I knew the events of the game would be pushed to the back pages. Normally, I would head to coach Mike D’Antoni’s press conference, but this time, I waited in line to get into the locker room and find out the prognosis.

    John Black, Lakers spokesman, came by and paused in front of me and another beat reporter as we waited in line. 

    "Kobe Bryant has a probable torn Achilles," Black said. "He will have an MRI on Saturday." 

    I’ll never forget where I was when Kobe Bryant realized he tore his Achilles: center court at Staples Center. Even more, I’ll never forget the courage he had to inch his way to the free throw line and make two critical free throws to level a must-win game.

    Calling him a warrior does not adequately express how Bryant fought for Los Angeles and the Lakers even when he was unable to walk, but with the Lakers playing the Golden State Warriors that night, it was difficult not to subconsciously make that connection.

    The Lakers had trailed by nine points only four minutes earlier, but Bryant’s heroic free throws capped off eight straight Laker points from the Mamba. Likely, it will not be the last time Bryant plays on an NBA court, but if it was, that was one heck of a way to go out. 

    The Lakers took a foul, and Vino struggled to get down the tunnel—take notes here, Paul Pierce. There was no wheel chair or stretcher, and even Robert Sacre’s perceived assistance wasn’t entirely embraced by the hobbled hero. 

    The Lakers announced that Kobe would be out for a minimum of six to nine months. When he eventually returns, no one knows whether he will resemble the same player -- especially Bryant.

    Regardless, thanks for the first 17 seasons, Kobe.

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