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Photo Caption Contest: Kobe Bryant chews on his jersey

February 26, 2011 |  2:32 pm

59707685Rarely does a game go by that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant isn't biting his jersey.

When he's thoroughly engaged in the game, as he usually seems to be, he's chewing on the jersey. When he's frustrated with an officials' call, Bryant lets his aggravation out on the referees by picking up technical fouls -- 11 thus far this season -- and by appearing to take a bite out of his jersey. And in the case of the Lakers' eventual 108-95 victory Friday over the Clippers, Bryant clenched his teeth into his uniform as a defense mechanism for the pain he felt after hurting the funny bone of his right elbow.

"It hurt like a mother . . . " said Bryant, who also described the elbow as "very sore."

Even so, Bryant spent halftime improving his range of motion and returned in the second half to score 18 of his 24 points in the third quarter, limiting his right hand other than when he shot the ball. Otherwise, he dribbled, passed and high-fived with his left hand. Images of Bryant's determination through injury is nothing new. The entire 2010 postseason focused on Bryant's relentlessness in coping with the sprained right knee that currently has very little cartilage, despite having off-season surgery. But to have a picture of Bryant's initial reaction after his elbow locked with Clippers guard Randy Foye is priceless.

You can take the latest photo caption contest in numerous directions. Use it as a springboard for discussion on how he fights through pain, concern over his health or add a few punchlines. If you ask me, Bryant isn't so much wincing in pain as he is hungry for free tacos after seeing Jack in the Box and son on the sideline at Staples Center.

--Mark Medina

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Photo: Kobe Bryant reacts after sustaining a bruise to his right elbow while playing against the Clippers on Friday night at Staples Center. Bryant would leave the game but return for the third quarter, when he scored 18 of his 24 points in the 108-95 victory. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times