Kobe Bryant Is About to Enter the Most Challenging Season of His 20-Year Career

If you hang around the NBA anywhere near as long as Kobe Bryant has, you're bound to run into your fair share of obstacles. Injuries, on-court struggles, off-court drama, locker room squabbles—the Black Mamba's seen them all and has come out the other side mostly intact, save for a few of his body parts and his NBA 2K rating.

But the 2015-16 season might not just be Bryant's last in the NBA; it could also be the rockiest, most potholed one he's yet had to tread in his 20 years of playing pro ball.

The biggest roadblock of all may well be Bryant's health. Each of his past three seasons have been ended by major injuries. In 2013, his Achilles tendon snapped. In 2014, his knee fractured. Last season, his right shoulder fell apart.

Mentally, Bryant seems prepared to put his setbacks behind him and plow right ahead. As he told a live audience during a recent trip to China (h/t Lakers Nation's Corey Hansford):

They gave me perspective. Prior to the injury I knew that the game wasn't going to be there forever. I knew that, but I wasn't expecting it. I told my kids, "My career could be over now," so when that happened, it changed my perspective. I started reflecting on this journey. It made me understand the finality of things and to appreciate them.

Physically, there's reason to wonder whether Bryant will be able to simply fend off his creeping mortality with a flurry. His recent injuries aside, Bryant just turned 37 and has already logged 55,415 minutes between the regular season and playoffs—the fifth-most in NBA history.

With that kind of mileage on his creaky body, Bryant won't have as easy of a time bouncing back from a taxing game, let alone a back-to-back set or an actual ailment as he once did.

The fact is, Bryant's not going to look like anything, his old self included, if he can't stay on the court. For his own good as well as...

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