All the minutes, shots, and pressure finally came to an inevitable conclusion Friday night at Staples Center.
Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant crumpled to the floor late in the fourth quarter of L.A.’s 118-116 win over the Golden State Warriors holding the back of his left foot.
After the game, Bryant reportedly said he suffered a torn Achilles tendon. An MRI is scheduled for Saturday, but an injury that severe means the 34-year-old former MVP and five-time champion’s season is likely over.
"I was just hoping it wasn't what I knew it was," Bryant said. "Just trying to walk it off, hoping that the sensation would come back, but no such luck."
The Lakers are already clinging to life for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and any postseason scenario against either the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder without Bryant could signal a first-round exit.
Second in the NBA in minutes played at 38.6, first in field goals attempted, and third in scoring, Bryant and L.A. faced questions about how much they were relying on their superstar.
In their previous 113-106 victory over the Portland Trailblazers Wednesday, the 15-time All-Star played all 48 minutes, scoring a season-high 47 points.
Bryant had already addressed the issue of retirement this season, reportedly saying on several occasions the idea of his career ending has crossed his mind.
Throughout his career Bryant has played thru pain and numerous injuries, but nothing quite as severe as this. An Achilles tear could sideline Bryant upwards of a year.
Veteran Clippers guard Chauncey Billups tore his Achilles in February of last season, and came back nine months later after vowing to return, albeit in a much more limited role. The 36-year-old has played in 20 games this year, averaging 19.1 minutes, while fighting off other nagging injuries.
Then there was Dallas Maverick and former double-double machine Elton Brand, who tore his Achilles and missed most of the 2007-08 season. In the years preceding the injury, Brand would average more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, but like Billups, his production and minutes have dipped considerably since.
The video below shows how the injury occured with just over three minutes left.