According to ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, the shooting guard confirmed that he wasn't thinking about missing the whole campaign before his team pulled off a surprising victory against Rajon Rondo and a motivated Boston Celtics squad on Friday, Jan. 17:
The only thing I can afford to consider is getting better, getting stronger. I can't allow myself to think any other way. I can only think about the next step. To do anything else becomes distracting if you allow yourself, if you give yourself wiggle room to not push yourself as hard as you possibly can. To think about sitting out and this, that and the other, your motivation is all wrong. I refuse to think that way.
Anybody who has watched Kobe play shouldn't be surprised by this Mamba mentality.
"Regardless of how many losses overshadow those in the win column, Bryant is determined to return this season from a fractured left knee injury," writes Jessica Camerato for Basketballinsiders.com. "Sitting out the remainder of the year is not a consideration for him."
Camerato also reports that Kobe thinks of himself as a basketball-playing version of Bruce Banner.
"I feel like taking David Banner, or Bruce Banner, and putting him in the middle of a bar fight and hope he doesn’t become The Hulk," said the purple-and-gold-wearing 2-guard. "That’s what I feel like watching the games."
The man Mamba was born to play basketball, and he's made it his everything ever since entering the league out of Lower Merion High School all the way back in 1996. For Kobe, sitting out when he can play is simply nonsensical. Hell, sitting out while he's 50 percent is a struggle, even if he knows it's in his best interest.
Whether or not he has the ability to carry the Lakers is still up in the air, though. He was struggling to do so after returning from his Achilles injury earlier this season, but the sample was admittedly small.
It's still too early to doubt Kobe, simply because he's, well, Kobe.
That's what made Magic Johnson's comments so surprising. You'd think such a central figure for the Lakers would realize that Kobe doesn't think about the quality of his teammates or the current record when he's trying to decide whether or not he should play basketball.
The answer is always that he should, and this season is no different.