What a Healthy Kobe Bryant Will Mean to the NBA in 2013-14

Who is Kobe Bryant to you?

Is he the hero of your childhood, the one who's lifted the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles since the turn of the century? Is he the villain who's tormented your favorite team with his myriad Michael Jordan-like moves?

Is he something in between? Maybe merely a craftsman of sorts whose work you appreciate from afar? Maybe an antihero whose seemingly steely demeanor and not-so-underdoggy story make it easier to root against him than to support him?

To the NBA, Kobe is all of these things and more.

Much, much, much more.


A Star of Stars

It's not that the Association is wanting for star power. If anything, the league that David Stern is set to leave behind in February of 2014 is as loaded with marquee-worthy names as it's been in the commissioner's nearly 30-year reign.

From LeBron James' pursuit of historic dominance and the scoring battles between Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony to Dwight Howard's dramatic move and Derrick Rose's impending return, the NBA will be replete (if not overrun) with gripping, star-centric storylines to follow once training camps open on October 1.

But no single player's presence or absence from those preseason festivities will be more closely watched, analyzed and scrutinized than Bryant's.

The Black Mamba's been hard at work preparing for his 18th season as a pro ever since his Achilles tendon snapped during a game against the Golden State Warriors this past April:


Not surprisingly, Kobe is expected to "shatter" the typical six-to-nine-month timetable for recovery from arguably the most devastating injury in basketball. As he told recently told assembled media during a stop on his tour of China (via NBA.com's Jonathan Hartzell):

The surgical procedure was different […] and because of that the recovery ...

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