Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nothing Stops Regularly Scheduled Kobe Lakeshow


He knows all about playing through illnesses, once weakened by the flu-like symptoms and managed to score 20 points in a losing cause. He knows all about playing through food poisoning when the fiercest scorer on earth, fatigued and sluggish, ate his bacon cheeseburger and slice of cheesecake after a callous Kings fan bribed a room-service chef to whip up his dinner with laxatives that left him dehydrated?

Nervous, shall we?

If Kobe Bryant, a gusty, foolhardy ballplayer, wrenched and writhed through pain with lower-back spasms that flared up on him in Game 4 of the playoffs and played in Game 5 against the Utah Jazz, although he felt tightness and stiffness, then he’ll likely play in the season-opener on Christmas Day. Everyone knows Bryant will play. There’s no mystery he’s injured and limited, fighting a torn ligament in his right wrist and listed day-to-day by the team.

There’s no uncertainty, though, as we all know Bryant by now — well enough to speculate that he plans to play and endure the discomfort of a torn ligament that he suffered in an exhibition game last week. The worrywarts, as if there had not been enough drama in Hollywood, can never stop wondering about Bryant’s health whenever he sustains an injury that could force him to miss action. This is one of the greatest ballplayers of the generation, as we know.

The city is merely a purple and gold region, where fans drive around town with Lakers’ car flags and where Magic Johnson is the son of the city. It’s not too difficult to realize that Johnson was an all-star and is now a public figure in which he can buy every Starbucks to order a grande latte, buy all Fatburgers, bid for T.G.I Fridays and movie theaters, just as Bryant can stand as the superstar of the entertainment capital.

That won’t change real soon, particularly in a community profoundly enamored with anything Lakers, and it will probably last eternally in a basketball town dating back to the peak of the Showtime in the ‘80s. As it often does in sports, the Lakers lay the claim to represent this town for the immeasurable championship banners that hang in the rafters at Staples Center.

By now, as the fabric of society that brings life to the city, the Lakers have so much tradition with victories and championships, just as much as Bryant has endured injuries. It turns out, after missing almost the entire preseason, that his wrist is in pain and sore but that he’ll figure out a way to play, refusing to opt for surgery.

Had he opted for surgery, he would’ve missed about four months and could’ve doomed the Lakers, but instead of undergoing surgery to repair his torn ligament — he expects to play in the Lakers’ season-opener Sunday against Chicago.

It should come as no surprise that he smiles confidently and said his right wrist “should be fine.” As if he can’t miss a game, as if he has to entertain fans with his Kobe Lakeshow, like David Letterman hosts his late night television talk show to give us hilarity and laughter, he tries to play through injuries and carry the burden of mental toughness as the global superstar.

It would be very surprising if he misses the season-opener, well, because Kobe is obviously the instrumental piece to the Lakers, and meanwhile on another journey to reclaim supremacy after an embarrassing loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs last season that sent the team home early.

On the eve of the first game in the regular season, Bryant walked into the team’s facility Saturday and downplayed the pain in his right wrist. That’s exactly what happened on Christmas Eve, and he seemingly declined to answer any questions about the injury, mum as usual staying focus on his first challenge on Christmas Day.

The reality, of course, is we don’t know exactly if he’ll be efficient to perform at the highest level. But knowing Kobe, he’ll compile enticing numbers on the scoreboard if he plays, ailing or not ailing – becoming his own unique player.

“I’m fine,” Bryant said. “I’m not talking about my injury.”

Kobe is a gifted guard, injured or not injured, and can defy the odds of magical things to turn dreams into a reality, seemingly doing so overnight it seems. It’s ultimately clear he makes the game look so easy to play, as if shooting a basketball is the easiest attempt in the world, but in truth, he emerged over the years – no longer a spoiled brat, no longer a delusional, self-centered, self-aggrandizing jerk.

It’s NBA season finally – and more precisely, he’s tired of asking questions about his health – for an update on his potential game-time decision – when he already cleared himself to play. How amusing, in many ways, to believe Kobe may not play Sunday. It’s anybody’s guess. But if you know Kobe, then you realize he’ll be on the court for the first game, emotionally pumped and eager to lead the Lakers to their first win of the season.

These over-hyped, repeated questions that were concocted by the local media here in L.A. to seek answers peeved Bryant, and he responded with a petulant gaze on his face as if he was ready to explode had another reporter asked him to elaborate about his torn ligament. The scare reminds people of what could have been worse – for an injury that was expected to debilitate and sideline him 3-4 weeks, a medical prognosis that wasn’t so surprising to Lakers guard Derek Fisher.

“It’s not a surprise that he’s going to play tomorrow, I called it a few days ago,” Fisher said. “I don’t know if it’s as much about his physical ability to play through pain as it is his mentality capacity and strength. Your ability to focus has to be at an all-time high to push through certain levels of pain and still be effective and still be the kind of player that he’s going to be.”

But hey, he’s Kobe Bryant. If he is still wondering what direction the Lakers are headed, after the failed attempt to acquire Chris Paul in a blockbuster deal, it’s only normal when the team had foolishly traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for nothing and when Andrew Bynum was handed a four-game suspension for his classless flagrant foul in the playoffs last season. It makes it seem possible that he’s concerned about the future and what it beholds for the Lakers, but Bryant certainly is not worried about his health.

Why not just expect him to play? He’ll play anyway. The name of the game is “fight”. And he indeed fights his way through injuries, jumping hurdles he never jumped before just remarkably to win games for the Lakers.

Go for it, Kobe.

Get ready for the Late Kobe Lakeshow.