LOS ANGELES — It happened with just more than two minutes left in the fourth quarter of a game where Kobe Bryant was leading a surprising late Lakers’ charge against the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs.
Kobe Bryant dislocated his finger.
“I was trying to go after the ball, and I just slipped on the wet floor,” Kobe said. “As I slipped, I put my hand on the floor to try balance myself, but I couldn’t spread my palm fast enough, so my finger just jammed right through the floor. It just popped right out. I tried to go after the ball, but my finger was just dangling there, kind of out to the side and the other part was going the other way.
“I thought about trying to put it back in myself, but it wasn’t going straight down, so Gary (Vitti, Lakers’ trainer) worked his magic and popped it back in.”
Kobe looked over at his family in the crowd and gave a nod. It’s something he says he’s always done to let them know he’s okay.
“They get concerned,” Bryant said. “So I look over at them and say it’s all right, then they are okay.”
Then Kobe went back in the game like nothing happened. Vintage Kobe.
Coach Byron Scott had seen the finger and called for Nick Young to go in, and young officially checked into the game, but Vitti popped the finger in and Kobe was ready to return. Bryant had to sit out until the next break (because Young had checked in) then Kobe returned to the game. He scored one more bucket, but Scott subbed Bryant out again with :36 left so the crowd could salute him.
Kobe said there is no fracture, and he will be ready to play Sunday against the Bulls.
This was just another in the long line of times Kobe suffered an injury and just played through it or had a little treatment then went right back in when most players would sit. It was just vintage Kobe.
This is also Vitti’s final season with the Lakers — he has been with the team since the Showtime era — and he and Kobe have built a relationship around Vitti doing everything he can to help keep Kobe on the court.
“We find these things extremely funny,” Bryant said of the dislocation Friday night. “It may be weird, but we find these things extremely funny. I go to the bench, he looks at my finger and says ‘Oh yea, that’s a good one’ and I say ‘no s—-. Do something about it.’ Then he pops it back in place and we just kind of laugh about it. He knows me from over the years; he knows I’m going right back in the game. So we laugh and we joke about it. We’ve seen it all. We’ve absolutely seen it all.
“It was fun to have that moment — hopefully it’s the last one we have. But it was fun to have it.”
We all hope it’s the last one, and Kobe leaves this season standing and on his own terms.