Kobe Bryant underwent successful surgery on a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the Los Angeles Lakers announced on Wednesday, and the 19-year veteran expects to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season.
Wednesday's news came with little shock, but it still carried with it great meaning. Bryant had now suffered season ending injuries in three successive seasons. At the end of the 2012-13 season, Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon. In the 2013-14 season, Bryant lasted only six games before suffering a fracture in his knee. For 2014-15, Bryant completed 35 games and waited until the halfway mark in the season before his shoulder gave out.
The expectation that Bryant would go under the knife and end his season leaked out of the Los Angeles Lakers' offices on Friday, Jan. 23. Later that day, the team sent a news release that confirmed Bryant's torn rotator cuff and specifically made mention of surgery as an option.
The news release also stated that Dr. Neal ElAttrache would examine Bryant on Monday. After Monday's meeting, Bryant decided that surgery would be required. ElAttrache previously performed Bryant's Achilles surgery and also operated on LA Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke's broken collarbone. The world famous surgeon performed both those operations within 24 hours of one another. No surprise, ElAttrache performed Bryant's latest shoulder operation, along with Dr. Steve Lombardo.
Over the weekend, Bryant released a dramatic video that all but confirmed his season had ended and surgery was on the horizon. In a video clip for an upcoming documentary film which placed cameras in the room, Bryant underwent his initial examination with Lombardo. In the clip, Lombardo clearly announced that Bryant's muscle had detached from the bone. Although not explicitly stating that the Lakers' superstar required surgery, the video appeared to show Bryant coming to terms with the severity of his injury.
To ease Bryant's mind on missing the remainder of the season, the Lakers lost their ninth game in a row to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. The defeat was the Lakers' 12th in the last 13 games, and LA's 34th defeat in 46 contests the season. Currently holding firm as the fourth worst team in the NBA, even a miracle would not save this team.
If the Lakers miraculously win every remaining game on their docket, they would finish with 48 wins. A season ago, the 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks finished with 49 wins and entered the playoffs with the eighth and final spot. Effectively, these Lakers have already been eliminated from the postseason.
For Bryant, the decision to get surgery should not have been difficult when considering the current standings and the nature of the injury. Ending the season rehabbing an injury should be an unwelcome familiar feeling, but Bryant's contract calls for only one more season. For Bryant's sake and for the sake of the fans, hopefully he can finish his Hall-of-Fame career on a healthy note.
At the moment, Bryant's involvement in training camp in Hawaii, which would be Bryant's last, remains unclear. According to the Lakers, Bryant will be out for approximately nine months and is expected to make a full recovery.
“I expect Kobe to make a full recovery and if all goes as expected, he should be ready for the start of the season,” ElAttrache said in the Lakers' official press release.