During the Los Angeles Lakers visit this preseason to London, England, Kobe Bryant was quoted as saying he is only at “60 percent” on coming back from his summer knee surgery.
Should Laker fans everywhere be concerned or will he get back all the way?
This is the biggest question for the 2010-2011 season. Forget Andrew Bynum. Forget if this will really be coach Phil Jackson’s final run. Forget how the new supporting cast will integrate.
No, the only real question and the one Laker fans should concern themselves with is that Kobe comes all the way back from his surgery.
When does it matter?
It doesn’t for the regular season. The Lakers will make the playoffs if they slept their way through all the games.
It doesn’t to get to the NBA Finals. The Lakers have too many weapons and can cover for any unhealthy players.
But it does matter in the NBA Finals.
A healthy Kobe Bryant is the difference in winning the title or not. Period. Say what you want about him being the best or LeBron James having that distinction. It doesn't matter. Basketball is a team game and the best team wins. End of story.
And, the Lakers have the best players, in the right positions. But, they’ve always had the best one on one player in the world.
Why does recovering to 100 percent matter for Kobe and a three-peat?
Because the difference in Kobe coming back and coming back fully is the difference in him going from true superstar to a great All-Star. And, if he slips to only great All-star status, you can throw all bets out the window on the Lakers repeating.
A healthy Kobe transcends the game. He elevates his team to greatness. But if the knee still hurts, if his lift is limited or reduced, that changes everything.
Why? Because Kobe is the quintessential game changer. He breaks down opponents and puts the Lakers on his back. His reputation as the game’s best closer is frozen in cement.
So, it is critical that Kobe comes all the way back. If he doesn’t, the Lakers will be in real trouble. It might not show up completely in the regular season. It might not hamper them in the playoffs. But it will be exposed when it matters most, in the NBA Finals.
No, the Lakers have to have superstar Kobe Bryant at the helm to repeat. Anything less won’t cut it.
But, mark my words, Kobe will return. He has proved time and time again he can recover from injury. His lift will return.
Don’t count him out. Not yet. Not ever.
And, he will use this time, these doubts, as more fire for his belly. Don’t think for one second that he hasn’t been eyeing the circus called the Miami Heat and the bandwagon brigade with their predictions. Don’t kid yourself that he isn’t recording all of this and harnessing it as extra fuel, more motivation to conquer another title.
Kobe knows what is required. He will get back to 100 percent.
This is a leading edge player who will do the leading edge work, will be in the gym building back the needed strength to that knee. He has to. We all know this. But Kobe knows this best.
Kobe is the NBA's true gladiator. Only Ray Lewis of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens is cut from the same mold. Kobe is the proven warrior. He knows what is required and he will rise to the challenge. Count on that.
This is all about seizing the moment. No one does that best that the guy who has “Carpe Diem” on his website. He will seize this opportunity and make the most of it.
Why? Because it matters most. And, everyone is predicting his demise.
Kobe knows the level that is required of him. The Lakers don’t repeat without him being the best player on the floor every game. And, we’re not talking about most all-around player, which we can concede to LBJ because it doesn’t matter. We’re talking Black Mamba, tear your heart out, cutthroat, go crazy, break you down, type of player. That’s what wins title. Ask Paul Pierce. Ask Michael Jordan.
And, this is what Kobe has in his DNA: Killer Instinct. He thrives on rising to the challenge, seizing the moment.
He will walk out of the arena either hoisting another NBA trophy or be carried out on his shield. Count on that. He will leave nothing behind.
Kobe is far from done. Just wait and see.
So, while we have to ask the question, wonder if he will return to 100 percent, we also have to give the answer. Yes. A resounding, yes. Seize that.