The injury appeared gruesome and figured to sideline Bryant for a week or two, dashing the Los Angeles Lakers' playoff hopes in the process.
Despite only being able to play 12 minutes against the Pacers, Bryant's return displayed the dichotomy of his gutsy decisions.
On one hand, Kobe's determination to play through countless injuries over the years has been admirable. On the other hand, risking further injury is an unfortunate evil that accompanies such drive and determination.
With images of Bryant writhing in pain on the floor of Philips Arena still fresh in our minds, it's time to revisit the most gutsy and reckless performances of Kobe's career.
The Triumph in 2000
The 2000 NBA Finals pitted the Lakers against the Eastern Conference champion Pacers, a series in which L.A. ultimately emerged victorious by a margin of four games to two.
What many have forgotten is that Bryant, who sprained his ankle in game two of that series, actually wound up missing game three.
The fact that the injury was severe enough to cause Bryant to sit out a game during the Finals gives you an indication of just how much pain he was fighting off. However, Bryant returned in game four and scored 28 points on 51.9 percent shooting en route to a 120-118 overtime victory.
Although he was overshadowed by teammate Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe's perseverance was one of the cornerstones of the Lakers' success that propelled them to victory.
As it turns out, former Indiana Pacer and current ESPN contributor Jalen Rose has admitted to jutting his leg out under Bryant in an attempt to injure him. Speculation remains about whether Atlanta Hawks guard Dahntay Jones fouled Bryant with malicious intent (via ESPN).
2008 Playoff Run with a Weak Back
Given the incredible amount of injuries Bryant has incurred over the years, it's easy to overlook the 2008 NBA Finals as one of Kobe's gutsiest performances.
On the verge of turning 30 years old, Bryant propelled the Lakers to a spot in the Finals, sweeping the Denver Nuggets while disposing of the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz in five and six games, respectively.
During the 2008 playoffs, Bryant averaged 30.1 points per game, the fourth-highest mark of his career for one postseason. Bryant also shot 47.9 percent from the field, which ranks second only to his 49.7 percent shooting throughout the 2006 playoffs.
Knee Problems Hamper Bryant
Rather than a game or series, let's now turn our attention to an entire season in which Kobe had to battle through injury.
During the 2010-11 season, Bryant managed to play in all 82 games despite barely practicing thanks to the degenerative condition of his knees.
To combat his fear of missing even one game with balky knees, Bryant and Phil Jackson agreed to a maintenance plan which minimized Kobe's time on the practice court, instead focusing all of his attention on game days.
In an interview with Peter Vecsey of the New York Post, Bryant shed some light on his difficult situation:
You know how competitive and combative I am on the court, he said. There’s nothing I like better than to practice. In fact, I like practice more than the games, because I get to go at my teammates hard. That’s when you find out what they’re made of, how much you can push some to get the most out of ’em, and how you have to back off others so you don’t lose ’em.
So, in order to protect my knee and avoid a situation like last year, we decided before the season to sacrifice the team’s intensity by minimizing wear and tear as much as possible.
According to Basketball-Reference, Bryant played just 33.9 minutes per game during the 2010-11 season, the third-lowest mark of his career.
Bryant's drive to maintain a presence on the floor was exemplary of what a veteran leader should be, but it's hard not to think that he put himself at risk of further injury.
A season full of risky performances ended with Bryant and the Lakers being swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Shortly after being eliminated, Kobe traveled to Germany to receive platelet-rich plasma therapy, which has worked wonders on his longevity.
Kobe Battles Wrist Ailment
From the jump, it was clear that the lockout-shortened season of 2011-12 was going to be a difficult one for Kobe and the Lakers.
Although the Lakers wound up losing to the Bulls 88-87 on Christmas Day, Bryant led all scorers with 28 points, setting the tone for what would end up being an arduous season.
During the 2011-12 campaign, Bryant played in 58 of a possible 66 regular season contests, and played nearly five minutes more per game than he did the previous year.
The Oklahoma City Thunder disposed of the Lakers in five games in the Western Conference semifinals, but gutsy performances out of Bryant wound up being commonplace throughout the truncated season.
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