With one drive, Kobe Bryant assuaged all fears about his left ankle and foot.
With one hop off his right foot, Bryant told the doctors he didn’t need crutches.
And with one electrifying dunk over Hornets center Emeka Okafor that prompted him to roar, the Lakers bench to rise and the 19,091 at Staples Center to cheer, Bryant provided a diagnosis that no MRI or X-ray could ever reveal.
Injuries and basketball mileage may eventually win in the never-ending fight to remain on top of his game, but no way will he easily cede that throne to a sprained left ankle and foot. The latest example involves Bryant leading the Lakers to a 106-90 Game 5 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Hornets and dropping 19 points on eight-of-13 shooting in the process.
A sprained left ankle and foot will only make him more resilient. Having to spend the past two days getting what he called "around the clock" and "non stop" treatment on what he called a "stiff" left ankle and foot will only make him stronger. And having to walk to the team bus on crutches following the Lakers' Game 4 loss Sunday to New Orleans will only make him more determined never to have to use them again.
Bryant epitomized that mindset when he received a pass from Lakers forward Pau Gasol at the top of the key, drove through an opening in the lane and powered with a one-handed slam over Okafor. The significance went beyond cutting the Hornets' lead to 44-42 with 3:33 remaining in the second quarter and proving he still has the athleticism he displayed more often wearing the No. 8 jersey, or as Shannon Brown put it, "It looked like he had his Afro back." The play helped set a tone for a game that ultimately gave the Lakers a 3-2 series lead and a chance to close out Thursday at New Orleans.