If Kobe Bryant’s Knee could talk it would probably say something to the effect of, “I’m so far from 100 percent it’s not even funny. BUT don’t tell Kobe I told you that!"
Likewise, if we were privy to the inner dialogue Kobe Bryant has with his knee among other parts of his body, it would invariably sound much like his recent retort to reporters "I'm 100 percent, I don't give a [expletive] what he says…Leave me alone about my knee. I'm fine."
But his knee can’t speak and unlike John Cusack in the movie Being John Malkovich, we don’t have a portal into Bryant’s mind—or do we?
The “he” Bryant spoke of was of course coach Phil Jackson, who again countered, "He's not 100 percent, but that's nice of him to say it."
In Zen-speak that translates into: He’s lying.
Bryant is notoriously private about the condition of his body. His mindset is remarkably old-school and devoid of excuses. If I can breathe, I can go, seems to be his one and only mantra.
If anyone has an approximate idea as to the inner working of Bryant’s mind, it would be his coach right?
We’ve long known that Kobe Bryant’s will is second to none. When it comes to his body, it’s even greater than any of us could have possibly imagined—physical limitations be damned.
This might be the ultimate example of mind over matter. No longer do we have to put stock in age old tales of yogi’s enduring unimaginable physical hardships that most of us would have to see to believe. We’ve been experiencing it for almost nightly, for years now as No. 24 suits up despite a litany of injuries.
Simply put, when Bryant puts his mind to something, nothing, not even his body matters.
So what does this mean for the Los Angeles Lakers' season?
Don’t make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. The saying is a mad player is a bad player. In the case of Kobe Bryant that couldn’t be further from the truth. If Bryant’s play to start the season is any indication, he’s plenty mad.
Not only has everyone overlooked the two-time defending champs in favor of the sexier, de rigueur Miami Heat, but everyone despite Bryant’s claims to the contrary will not let up about the knee.
After stating that his knee was merely 60 percent in the preseason, it’s seemingly bloomed to 100 percent or something approximating those numbers. If it’s not, as suggested by Jackson, Bryant is once again proving he’s superhuman. Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers have been on a tear starting the season with a gaudy 7-0 record, something they haven’t done in years.
And while I’ve often lamented the Lakers' nonchalant attitude when it comes to playing, thus far they appear to be on a mission.
Pau Gasol was supposed to handle the load until Kobe Bryant’s knee healed and Andrew Bynum returned. Somehow, that just hasn’t happened. While Pau has played remarkably, notching Western Conference Player of the week honors, Bryant has consistently matched or exceeded his output in limited minutes.
Even more impressive is that Bryant and Gasol are the first two Lakers, since Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West in the '71-'72 season, to average 20 points a game through the first six games.
To a man, each of the Lakers has bought in to the team concept of sharing the ball and is performing at the levels of excellence they are often capable of, but have rarely demonstrated until absolutely necessary.
As Bryant’s 17th career triple-double on November 3 against the Kings would suggest, no Laker has come more prepared to play and win than he.
So whether or not the knee is fully recovered, Bryant will WILL his way forward, determined to let his play and the play of his team silence the never-ending parade of questions and critiques.
In a recent interview with Ahmad Rashad, Bryant was lauded for his work ethic and ability to bring some new and improved facet of his game to each NBA season following the summer. When Ahmad asked Bryant what he was bringing to this season, Bryant remarked, “Two legs.”
As well as the Los Angeles Lakers are playing out of the gate, the thought of a fully recovered Bryant is scary.
The sentiment is echoed by teammate Derek Fisher, “I thought he might start off struggling to find some rhythm, to see him play this well this early, he’s on my team, so that’s good for me…but that’s not good for everyone else.”
Yes, if Bryant’s knee could talk it would likely say, “You see what we’re capable of now, wait until I’m 100 percent; just don’t tell Kobe I told you that.”