Kobe Bryant at 35: Is Age Just a Number for the Black Mamba?

Want to feel old today? Here's a fun fact for you: Kobe Bryant just turned 35.

Yeah, that Kobe Bryant. The one who the Los Angeles Lakers picked up as a sprightly 17-year-old by way of a trade during the 1996 NBA draft. The one who, alongside Shaquille O'Neal, led the Los Angeles Lakers to three NBA championships before he hit his mid-20s. The one who claimed back-to-back scoring titles, a league MVP and two more rings after forcing the Big Diesel out of L.A. The one who's followed in Shaq's footsteps by giving himself not one (The Black Mamba) but two (Vino) nicknames. 

And now, the one who's officially entered the twilight of his career, with an Achilles injury from which to work his way back and a subpar team to which he'll be returning. As encouraging as it may be to see Kobe already hard at work on an anti-gravity treadmill—just four months after suffering the most devastating setback of his career, no less—there's no telling yet when or at what capacity he'll play again.

To hear Kobe tell it, his recovery from a torn Achilles will be the fastest and most successful ever, he'll return stronger than before and he'll have the Lakers contending for titles again in no time, because of course that's what he's going to say.

Bryant didn't simply arrive at all-time greatness; he got there in large part because he's one of the most competitive people to ever set foot on a basketball court, if not one of the most competitive humans ever to walk the frickin' Earth. He's like a vampire who feeds not on youth or blood, but rather on (perceived) slights and insults.

He also seeks out new and innovative treatments for what ails him like no other.

He's worked extensively with famed trainer Tim Grover and even flew to Dusseldorf, Germany, a couple years ago to undergo an experimental treatment on his arthritic knees. 

As such, there's no real historical precedent ...

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