Kobe Bryant Won’t Ever Be Michael Jordan, But Lakers Star Has as Much Heart as Any Player in NBA History


Apr 27, 2011

Kobe Bryant Won't Ever Be Michael Jordan, But Lakers Star Has as Much Heart as Any Player in NBA History For 48 hours between the Lakers’ Game 4 loss Sunday night in New Orleans and their recovery Tuesday night in Game 5, the dominant storyline surrounding that series was the sprained ankle of the reigning Finals MVP.

Kobe Bryant was hurting, but no one knew how much. Not even Kobe himself. He had the option to go in Monday for an MRI to check out the ankle, and he declined. Why bother?

“I don’t know why you guys are so concerned about the MRI,” Bryant told reporters after Tuesday’s game. “It’s not like I’d have told you the results anyway.”

He’s got a point.

The status of Kobe’s lower left leg was ubiquitous in the headlines all day Monday and Tuesday, but when the Lakers took the floor at the Staples Center on Tuesday night, it ceased to matter one bit. Kobe’s ankle wasn’t broken. He could still walk. And that being the case, he was going to play. End of story.

To drive the point home, the Laker leader thrilled the home crowd with two of the best dunks of his career — a right-handed slam down Emeka Okafor‘s throat in the second quarter, and a drive past Carl Landry in the third for a left-handed throwdown. That’s Kobe’s way of sending a message. Now the world knows where to stick its MRI.

Kobe finished with just 19 points in Game 5, his third time under 20 in this series, with only four assists and two rebounds. Statistically, he appears headed for his worst postseason in over a decade. But the very fact that he played — and played heavy minutes until the Lakers built a blowout lead and Phil Jackson sat him down late — speaks volumes.

He’s still only 32, but Kobe has already played 40,145 career minutes in the NBA, plus 7,987 more in the postseason. That’s a lot of mileage. By 2012, he could easily pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most playoff minutes ever. But he’s still not taking games off, no matter how tempting it might be.

Manu Ginobili sat out Game 1 of the playoffs last week; Shaquille O’Neal missed an entire series. Rudy Gay, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Udonis Haslem have all played it safe this spring rather than push themselves back. Kobe has done nothing of the sort.

His competitive drive epitomizes what the NBA playoffs are all about. You leave it all out there like there’s no tomorrow, because if you don’t, there is none. It’s nights like Tuesday that remind us of Kobe’s place among the all-time greats.

Will he ever be Michael Jordan? Doubtful. But he has that same will to compete and desperation to win, and that’s what makes this game great. Who needs ankles when you’ve got heart?

What do you think of Kobe Bryant’s performance in the playoffs so far? Share your thoughts below.

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