What Kobe Bryant Must Overcome to Return to Dominant Form in 2013-14

Kobe Bryant knows a thing or two about handling obstacles, about overcoming odds and proving doubters wrong. He turned pro at the age of 17, led the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight titles in the early 2000s and stuck around long enough to win two more without Shaquille O'Neal by his side.

Along the way, Bryant's body has taken quite the beating—between injuries to his knees, his ankles, his face and his fingers (among other parts)—while his game has grown and evolved, like a fine wine aging over time.

Rather than a piece of fruit decaying on the vine.

The Black Mamba's latest challenge, though, may be his greatest yet. Getting back on the court after rupturing his left Achilles tendon is one thing. Competing and producing at the level he was prior to the injury is another entirely.

At 35 and coming off the most serious setback of his 17-year NBA career, Kobe may never dominate a game physically like he once did. But make no mistake: he'll still be able to affect the outcome of any contest as much as he ever has.

That is, if he does two things, one tougher than the other.

The first is a matter of corporeal preparation. As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com recently noted, there's more to Bryant's impending return than just the recovery of his Achilles tendon. A summer spent rehabbing a specific part of his body is one not used by Kobe to push himself through his usual slate of harrowing strength and conditioning workouts.

Chances are, the rest of Bryant's body has fallen out of whack to some extent since he came up limping against the Golden State Warriors in mid-April. Kobe would likely need significantly more time exercising away from the court once his foot is fully healed to get himself back into proper playing shape.

And that's before factoring in Bryant's lack of basketball fitness, which, in truth, can only be corrected by playing the game. Article Source: Bleacher Report - Los Angeles Lakers