Los Angeles Lakers in Danger of Repeating History with Kobe Bryant

At age 36, Kobe Bryant is averaging 36 minutes per game and shouldering a heavy burden for a team with a 5-13 record.

Sometimes the end seems to justify the means, such as an overtime win against the Toronto Raptors, 129-122 on Nov. 30, in which Bryant scored a triple-double in 42 minutes. He also became the only player in NBA history with at least 30,000 points and 6,000 assists.

To the delight of Lakers fans, there goes Kobe being Kobe again. 

But there’s another conversation to be had as well—about the limits to which an athlete can be pushed, about the time it takes a body to recover and the inevitable way it breaks down over time. 

The dance with the devil—the battle with the undefeated Father Time.

At the tail end of the 2012-13 season, the Lakers, under then-coach Mike D’Antoni, were pushing desperately to capture a place in the playoffs. Bryant had averaged 45 minutes for seven games in a row.

It was the seventh one that did him in. At the 45-minute mark of the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors, Bryant made a move to go around Harrison Barnes. He felt a pop and went down—his left Achilles tendon had just exploded.

Surgery and a lengthy rehab followed, with the sports world following every painful step of the way.

Bryant made his comeback the following December. Six games in, while running the point for an injury-depleted Lakers squad, No. 24 went down with a fractured knee and would be out for the remainder of the season.

In hindsight, one can say the two injuries were not related, that freak accidents happen—it’s the game of basketball and it’s played hard and fast on a wooden floor.

Not everybody bought that theory, however, including a guy who coached Bryant to five NBA championships.

Last January, Phil Jackson talked about the ...

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