By Ray Hamill
Just how significant the news of Kobe Bryant’s most recent injury will be remains to be seen, but you have to wonder how much he has left in the tank.
At 35, Kobe is in his 18th season in the NBA, and that’s a lot of mileage on those knees, especially when you consider his seven postseason trips to the finals alone add up to more than two full additional regular seasons.
So news that he has fractured a bone in his left knee, his second major injury of this calendar year, begs the question, is it all catching up to the future hall-of-famer?
He is certainly still as motivated as any player in the game, insulted by his preseason 25th ranking among current NBA players and driven by ambition to win that elusive sixth ring, the one-for-the-other-hand that would see him match MJ, a goal I’m quite sure that is close to his heart.
But that drive can only count for so much, and even if Kobe can come back healthy, you have to question just how close his Lakers are to contending in a packed Western Conference, even with him at full strength.
In somewhat of a rebuilding mode, they have freed up plenty of salary cap space for next season – even if an inordinate amount of that is tied up in the $48.5 million dollar, two-year deal they gave Kobe a couple of months back – but I’m not so certain they can close the gap in time for Kobe to reap the rewards.
He has, at best, two years left playing at a top level, and with the injuries mounting he could have less than that.
Kobe will go down as one of the greatest – and most successful – ever to grace the basketball courts, but like those that came before him he is learning the one lesson every player must someday endure.
It doesn’t matter how great you are, time is the inevitable equalizer.