The one defining trait of Kobe Bryant’s 19 NBA seasons is the reason there will be a 20th:
Put an obstacle in front of the man and he feels he has to overcome it.
That latest obstacle is the torn rotator cuff that likely has ended his season (nothing will be official until Monday). Despite the mythology around him, Kobe is a human being and in recent interviews he has been questioning himself and how far he can go. Right now he has to be thinking, Achilles“Do I want to go through all the work to come back? For what, this lottery-bound team next season?”
But he will be back.
In part because there are $25 million reason for him to be back. I don’t care how rich you already are, you don’t leave that much cash on the table.
However, it’s more than that for Kobe. It’s about proving himself one more time. At age 36 he came back from an Achilles surgery to be one of the top scorers in the NBA. Now proving that he can come back from an injury that have some writing him off is the next hurdle he cannot help but want to clear. Kobe’s self belief exceeds any other NBA player, it’s at the core of what made him special. He will not relent. While his body is asking questions, that answer has not changed.
Plus, he knows he can help the Lakers win.
After he passed Michael Jordan on the scoring list, after Kobe took a few games off to rest his aches, he came back much more the facilitator, playing much more within the system. He was the kind of guy free agents look at and want to play with.
Kobe will recruit this summer then come back. Byron Scott should not make him the fulcrum of the offense anymore, Kobe should play 25 minutes a night tops, get his points and savor his farewell tour. Maybe hit a game winner or two. It may not be the peak Kobe we remember, but it will be interesting.
And we will see him for another year. At least.