NBA Playoffs 2011: What Are the Long-Term Effects of Kobe's Injuries?

Hayden KimCorrespondent IIIApril 28, 2011

NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 24:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands during a freethrow against the New Orleans Hornets in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at New Orleans Arena on April 24, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Too many times have we held our breath as Kobe Bryant's ankles swung from right to left, left to right, wearin' and tearin' his already fatigued body. This has become an obvious concern for the Lakers organization, and only time will tell how serious the situation actually is. 

Kobe has averaged 22.2 (PPG), 4.2 (RPG), and 4.2 (APG) in the first five games of the New Orleans series. For any regular player these numbers would seem great, but we aren't talking about Marco Bellinelli, were talking about the "Black Mamba."

Now injuries can easily take any player out of his game--even superstars, but that doesn't mean they can't still contribute to a team victory. The disappointment with Kobe hasn't been his mediocre numbers, it has been his stubbornness to take 87 difficult shots while being injured. 

There is nothing superstars hate more than watching lesser players perform better than them when being injured or limited. Kobe obviously hasn't learned over the years that his days of going 1-on-5 aren't quite what they used to be, and it has shown in every game. 

I don't know about you, but it has been very frustrating to see Kobe shoot one bad shot after another, when there are other players like Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom waiting to get involved in the game. If Kobe continues to play the same way in these following games, this series could easily go 7 games--something the Lakers didn't want to even think about. 

But should we be seriously concerned with Kobe's health? I mean, he's still averaging around his usual numbers and he seems to be fine--especially after watching those two dunks in Game 5. There is no easy answer to this, but it's to the point where Kobe's body will never get back to his 100%. This is expected and Kobe will indeed have to play the rest of his careers with weakened ankles and an arthritic finger--which could force Kobe to play at a different level than what we are all used to for the rest of his career. 

Every player has a certain amount of seasons alive in them--Magic Johnson had 13 and Michael Jordan had 14. Kobe is playing in his 15th season and who knows how much he has left in the tank. It could be anywhere from 1-5 seasons. Nonetheless, Kobe's retirement is approaching and because of injuries, that process has been sped up. 

Kobe is still a top-five player in the league and his Laker team is still in the hunt for a title, so it isn't quite over yet, but nothing is guaranteed and as we have seen when superstars find themselves losing their competitive edge, they tend to walk away from the game they love. We could easily see Kobe leave us soon, so cherish this NBA playoffs because we may never even see Kobe in the finals or winning a title again.