Lakers head physical therapist Judy Seto has worked with the Lakers for more than 20 years. Plus, she has experience outside basketball.
So, Seto has seen a lot.
And Kobe Bryant stands apart.
Kobe’s remarkable pain threshold
“It’s the highest that I’ve ever seen. He channels his focus so well in terms of just the task at hand. But also when he’s had pain, he can block that out.
“I think that trait makes him who he is, and his ability to focus also allows him to channel his energies. It’s not that he doesn’t feel pain; it’s how he responds. Everybody responds to pain a little differently. There’s some people that if you have an injury, you perseverate on it, an injury here can manifest to an injury over here or somewhere else in your body. It can be extremely debilitating. That’s the other stream.
Usually Seto measures a patient’s pain on a scale of 1-10. But with Bryant, “I don’t even ask him. He just looks at me. ‘Why are you even asking me this? What’s the point?’
“So there’s no point in asking him, ‘How bad is your pain?’ He would just go, ‘Why are you asking me about my pain? Just take care of whatever the problem is and let me get back to what I need to do, or I can’t do it, so tell me I can’t, then we’ll deal with it.’
“It’s kind of like useless. I mean, I’ll have to ask him, ‘Does it hurt?’ I have an obligation to ask. But I don’t think I’ve asked on a scale of zero to ten how much it hurts because it doesn’t matter for him.”
As an example, Seto cited Kobe making the free throws after tearing his Achilles.
No doubt, Kobe is unlike other players. His mental capabilities are unmatched, and that apparently includes his ability to handle pain.
But ignoring pain gets a player only so far, especially a 36-year-old. I believe Kobe will get the most possible from his body, but aging remains undefeated. Even if Kobe can withstand more than anyone else, he can’t move as well as he once could. His injuries will still limit him.
Kobe is extremely well-prepared for the injury-related challenges that await him this season, and his pain tolerance helps. But that goes only so far.