During my days as an amateur athlete and as a sports reporter and anchor, I have witnessed my fair share of injuries. Some gruesome, and some your run-of-the-mill ankle sprain. Ask any athlete and they will tell you that they know instantly when an injury is bad. You just know it in your bones. It hits you in your gut. Even if you don't see it, but hear it, you know. Often, if the angle is right when watching on TV, you know instantly.
That was the case for me last night. I watched the Lakers game from the confines of the Fox Sports desk in Los Angeles. I had dropped in for a couple of days to host a few sportscasts. As soon as I saw Kobe go down, this was the third time of the night by the way, and I saw the look in his eyes, I knew it was bad. Kobe never shows resignation. There was resignation in his eyes. Kobe knew this was bad. I immediately said to my producer, Rod Cohen, this is very bad.
Kobe had grimaced and hobbled after the two other hard falls earlier in the game. But that was Kobe. We've all seen the warrior rise up and come back stronger. He did it last night.
But, then late in the game after he had hit back-to-back three pointers to tie the game at 107, he drove left like he had done thousands of times. I fully expected him to stop on a dime and hit the fade away bucket. Instead, everything else stopped on a dime. In an instant, the future of Kobe and the Lakers as they've known life for the past 17 years may have faded away.
I have to tell you it was hard to watch and not because it was Kevin Ware or Joe Theismann gruesome, because it wasn't. It was watching him shuffle off the court that was hard to watch.
I thought he was going to shuffle straight to the locker room. But then Kobe did something that was pure "Kobe The Warrior." He shuffled back on the court to shoot two free-throws, essentially on one foot and in immense pain as his shredded heel throbbed. He did it for the team. Why? Because if he had left the game injured, Warriors Coach Mark Jackson could have picked anyone on the Lakers to shoot the free-throws. Nobody out there shoots them as well as Kobe. The game was on the line. Kobe was not going to let someone else dictate the future. He made both free-throws to give the Lakers' the lead. The Lakers then had to foul one of the Warriors to stop the clock so Kobe could shuffle off the court. It was that bad. This time, he shuffled off straight to the locker room. There would be no last-minute Kobe heroics. He was gone.
I've often wondered what happens to an athlete in the hours after a devastating injury. Where are they? What is going through their minds? Are they with their family? I know Kobe made sure he saw his daughters right away to make sure they knew their dad was OK. They were at the game and witnessed everything. But what happens when the player hobbles home? Does the player lie in bed in pain, pissed-off, sad, angry, hopeful, questioning, wondering??
Well, at least in Kobe's case, we now know. It's 3:30 a.m. and Kobe can't sleep, is in pain and needs to talk, to vent. So, he turns to Facebook and posts the following:
Status Update by Kobe Bryant
"This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I've done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen ?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I'm supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that??
I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends.
Maybe Father Time has defeated me...Then again maybe not! It's 3:30am, my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I'm wide awake. Forgive my Venting but what's the purpose of social media if I won't bring it to you Real No Image?? Feels good to vent, let it out. To feel as if THIS is the WORST thing EVER! Because After ALL the venting, a real perspective sets in. There are far greater issues/challenges in the world then a torn achilles.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever.
One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.
"If you see me in a fight with a bear, prey for the bear". Ive always loved that quote. Thats "mamba mentality" we don't quit, we don't cower, we don't run. We endure and conquer.
I know it's a long post but I'm Facebook Venting LOL. Maybe now I can actually get some sleep and be excited for surgery tomorrow. First step of a new challenge.
Guess I will be Coach Vino the rest of this season. I have faith in my teammates. They will come thru.
Thank you for all your prayers and support.
Much Love Always.
As I write this, some nine hours after Kobe's post, it has been shared by 74,581 people, Liked by 345,050 with 57,596 actually taking the time to write comments.
It's not only the beauty of social media, but that's the beauty of Kobe Bryant. Real. Raw. Straight-up with perspective as in this line, "Because after all the venting, a real perspective sets in. There are far greater issues/challenges in the world than a torn Achilles." True.
I find it interesting that this indestructible warrior was brought down by an Achilles heel, so named after the greatest warrior in Homer's Iliad. Achilles was invulnerable in all of his body parts except for his heel and that's how he met his demise. Let's hope this is not the demise of Kobe's career. But if it is and he never plays another game, it is a career even Homer would find heroically poetic.