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Point/Counterpoint: Will Kobe Bryant ever play again?

BY DI STAFF | APRIL 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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NO

Contrary to what many optimists around the NBA are saying, the league has seen the last of Kobe Bryant.

Bryant sustained a season-ending ruptured Achilles injury April 12 while attempting to drive to the hoop against Golden State

A few years go, many people, me included, would say that if anyone in the NBA could return from such a horrible injury, it would be Kobe.

However, this is not the same Kobe Bryant that came back from injury after injury to lead the Lakers to five NBA championships in 10 years. Bryant’s body simply can’t recover from sustaining injuries every few years.

Over the course of his career, he has injured just about every body part possible, including sprains, breaks, and tears to both ankles. While he has managed to return from every one triumphantly, many believe that this may finally prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Bryant has several factors working against him.

The first should be pretty obvious: Bryant elected to have surgery to repair the Achilles, which could result in the Lakers’ superstar sidelined for up to nine months — that would put his point of return somewhere around January 2014, leaving him with only a little over half of a season to play, and that’s if he returns on time. However, estimates on recovery time for injuries can often take much longer than expected. Just ask Derrick Rose.

Next season will also mark the end of Bryant’s three-year, $83 million contract extension. If he misses the entire 2013-14 season, finding a team to sign a 35-year-old shooting guard with a history of injuries to a multimillion-dollar contract may prove to be the biggest challenge he faces.

Which brings me to my final, and perhaps most important point: The man is 34 years old. While there are many who have played past this age, it is a proven fact that torn muscles take longer to heal the older you get, and the risk for further injury only increases with age.

Barring some superhuman recovery, it looks as if the NBA has seen the last of Kobe Bryant.

— Ryan Probasco

YES

There’s no way in hell Kobe Bryant’s career in the NBA, or with the Los Angeles Lakers, is finished after he underwent surgery for a torn Achilles tendon suffered on April 12.

Was there ever any doubt whether he would return? It’s Kobe Bryant we’re talking about here. Yes, he’ll be out for six to nine months. Yes, he will be 35 years old next season. But anyone who’s watched any Laker game, anyone who’s heard Kobe speak or read a quote from him knows that’s just not who he is.

Just look at his Facebook post from around 3:30 a.m. on April 13, hours after his injury: “Now, I’m supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!?” Part of Bryant’s post said. “How in the world am I supposed to do that?? I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me … Then again maybe not!”

If there’s anyone that can come back from a torn Achilles and be the same player he was before, it’s Kobe. The man has scored 2,133 points this season, his most in the regular season since 2008-09.

Bryant was in the midst of a roller-coaster campaign after the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the off-season. His injury is merely the latest story in a season filled with story line after story line. Combine this with his determination for his sixth championship, and everyone alive should know that Kobe is going to play his final game in a Lakers jersey. He won’t let his career end with a hobbled exit.

It just doesn’t make sense that he wouldn’t come back for one more season and attempt to earn the sixth title that he desires so much. Bryant started an Instagram account to show his “comeback journey” through photos.

Whether Bryant’s comeback season will be a success is another story, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he came back next season and led the Lakers to at least a deep playoff push. Because that’s what Kobe does. That’s who Kobe is.

They don’t call him the Black Mamba for nothing.

— Matt Cabel


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