Kobe Bryant makes right decision in opting out of NBA All-Star game
He may have left the NBA, the fans, Jerry Jones and Nike disappointed. But Kobe Bryant's decision to opt out of what would be his 12th All-Star appearance on Sunday served as the right decision both for the Lakers, and more importantly, for his own well-being.
More details will emerge once Bryant discusses publicly how he reached his decision and what served as the tipping point when he knew it would be better off not to play, what with missing the past three games because of a sprained left ankle. But knowing Bryant's desire to always compete as well as his constant monitoring with trainer Gary Vitti, it's safe to say this was a difficult choice for Bryant to make.
There has been plenty of well-reasoned debate on whether Bryant should have rested earlier after going through a litany of injuries, including his fractured right index finger, back spasms and most recently his sprained left ankle.
Regarding his index finger, I found it more concerning how Bryant would alter his role given that his fractured finger hurt his shooting and ball handling abilities than whether he should actually sit. Even if he wasn't at 100%, his on-court presence was invaluable. He had also made constant changes, going from wearing a splint, to taking it off and to putting it back on again to ensure the right balance of protecting his finger and maximizing his ability with a damaged part.
Regarding his back spasms and sprained left ankle, Bryant held the criteria that he'd sit out only if he couldn't walk. That happened Jan. 12 against San Antonio where he missed the entire fourth quarter because of back spasms. Rather than accepting the likelihood that he'd be out, he had a personal trainer take a red-eye to give him massage treatment as early as 5 a.m. the next day. He laid on a pad throughout the first half the following day against Dallas and ending up shooting the game winner.
Similar scares happened when Bryant initially sprained his left ankle Jan. 29 against Philadelphia, where he collided with Elton Brand. But he returned with no signs of it bothering him and then scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half. After Lamar Odom stepped on his ankle last week against Charlotte, Bryant returned in the second half and finished with only five points on two-of-12 shooting, though he did a better job setting up Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum inside. He then played against Denver, scoring 33 points on 11-of-22 shooting. Ultimately, Bryant ended his streak of 235 consecutive games Saturday against Portland, saying later that the inflammation was hindering his movement.
Bryant may have been stubborn with his finger because he knew he could still play through it. He was more cautionary, however, with his ankle and back because he knew he needs those body parts to function to ensure movement. And even though he tried fighting through it to the very end, fortunately Bryant recognized the value healing can do to an injured body.
The Lakers and their fans will surely look forward to next week, possibly as early as Tuesday when the Lakers host against Golden State, to see a refreshed and recovered Bryant. That wouldn't have been fully possible had he decided to play Sunday in the All-Star game.
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Photo: Kobe Bryant, left, grimaces in pain after teammate Lamar Odom accidentally stepped on his ankle late in the first half of the Lakers' 99-97 victory over Charlotte on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Bryant returned to start the third quarter but lacked his usual quickness. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times.