Why Kobe Bryant Has Nothing Left to Prove

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Although nothing has officially been decided, sources have informed ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, that the season is likely over for Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Once again, it appears that Bryant’s season will be derailed by another injury — a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

The injury occurred during Wednesday night’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, but the severity of the tear was discovered today by team doctor, Steven Lombardo. Now, Bryant looks like he’ll take the weekend to decide whether or not to get season-ending surgery.

It would be a shame for this to be how Bryant’s unbelievable basketball career comes to an end, but he has been battling injuries the last few seasons. And, sometimes, when the body is telling you something, even the ultra-competitors like Bryant need to stop and listen. Especially, if you have nothing left to prove.

All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Bryant has spent his entire 18-year career trying to catch Michael Jordan. Everything that Jordan was or did, Kobe wanted to do it better. That’s the person that Bryant is. It’s first-place or nothing at all. That’s why he can’t stand the idea of someone else getting to six rings before he does. That’s not OK with Kobe Bryant. But, despite the fact that he’s clearly mirrored his game after Jordan, the truth still remains: He will never be Michael Jordan. No one will. But Bryant’s as close as anyone’s ever come before. And that should be enough.

Bryant is a lock for the Hall of Fame. His career numbers at this point are outstanding. He’s averaged 25.4 points-a-game, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. He’s an 83.7% free-throw shooter and has a lifetime field goal percentage just north of 45%. These statistics are in and of themselves enough to represent a fantastic professional career, but Bryant’s skill-set goes beyond the raw numbers. It’s these intangibles that separate him from almost everyone who’s ever played his position.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Bryant doesn’t shy away from the big moments. When the game is on the line, he wants the ball. When one shot will win it, it’s Bryant who yearns to pull the trigger. He’s an unbelievable defender, who will body up the opposing team’s top player. He looks to dominate. His standards are incredibly high. He wants to win at all costs. And he’s constantly improving his game and trying to get better. You can’t teach this. Either you’re born with this mentality or you’re not. Bryant was, and then some.

It’s this competitive spirit that drives him. But it’s also the same thing keeps him from accepting his position in history as the second best shooting guard of all time. That’s not good enough for Bryant. He’s still trying to capture that white whale. He’s reaching out for that “green light” at the end of the dock. He wants his sixth ring. He wants Michael Jordan.

But the truth is he doesn’t need him. He probably never did. Kobe’s legacy is secure. And there’s nothing more he needs to do to cement his place in history. Right now, his body is trying to tell him something. It’s OK if, this time, he decides to listen to it.

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