Can a Healthy Kobe Bryant End Rumors of His Demise?

I've never been forced to play basketball with an avulsion fracture on the index finger of my shooting hand, but as with any type of finger injury, I'm sure the pain can be excruciating.

Even a jammed finger can change the way a player approaches the game, and for Los Angeles Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant, a fractured finger was only one of the ailments he was forced to endure last season.

The finger injury captured the public's attention because it was the type of injury that had a clear and visible effect on Bryant's game, but there were other subtle injuries that were less dramatic, but potentially more damaging.

Bones will heal, but Bryant's swollen knee and aching back were signs of 14 seasons of NBA play finally beginning to take their toll on the Lakers' star, and whispers began to emerge that Bryant may be on the backside of his career.

It's important to keep in mind that Bryant only missed a few weeks of game time in the regular season despite all his pains, and he still managed to average 27 points per game, five rebounds, and five assists while shooting 45 percent from the field.

Bryant's finger injury definitely altered his shot and he suffered through some miserable shooting performances, but during this time he also hit a lot of big shots, many of which were of the game-ending variety.

Oh yeah, the Lakers won their second consecutive NBA championship and Bryant was named Finals MVP for the second year in a row after averaging 30 points throughout the course of the postseason.

But Bryant is quickly approaching 32, and even though an offseason of rest will heal his injured hand, will the back and knee troubles disappear as well?

Maybe the ailments won't disappear, but Bryant is one of the better conditioned athletes in the entire NBA, and since the injuries are not considered career-ending, he will find a way to manage them.

To be ...

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