Kobe Bryant had every reason possible to miss Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.
We saw Kobe writhing in pain and holding his ankle after landing on Dahntay Jones’ dangerously placed foot at the end of the Atlanta Hawks 106-102 loss on Wednesday.
Shortly after the game, the report from the Lakers’ camp was Kobe suffered a “severely” sprained ankle and would be out “indefinitely”.
If that wasn’t enough to dash all hopes of him returning Friday, Kobe posted a picture of his ankle on his twitter account. The knot on the ankle was the size of a baseball.
Taking all that into consideration, most had to think that Kobe isn’t playing.
What happened? There Kobe stood at center court of Banker’s Life Fieldhouse with the other starting 9 of the Lakers and Pacers on Friday getting ready for the official to hoist up the jump ball to start the game.
While it was pretty obvious early on that Kobe was not well enough to play, struggling to get lift and make cuts, he gutted it out for 12 first quarter minutes. He went scoreless in those 12 minutes, missing all four of his shots and then sitting it out for the rest of the game, watching his teammates upset the Pacers, 99-93, without him.
The Lakers make it to the relatively small town of Indianapolis just once a year. It’s the Lakers’ and NBA fans in that area one opportunity a year to catch a glimpse of the future Hall of Famer. With Kobe in his 17th season and career winding down, these last few visits through there might be their last chance to ever see him play.
One fan reached out to Kobe on Twitter to thank him for his efforts and taking the consideration of the fans into mind. Kobe reciprocated that thanks by the fan on Twitter.
Players miss games for much less than the severe sprain that Kobe endured, such as hang nails, hang overs or for mere rest. Coach Greg Popovich of the Spurs routinely sits his star players throughout the year who are fully capable of playing. These players and coaches never once think about some of the fans that shell out their hard earned money to watch these stars play. Most fans just don’t have the disposable income to watch many NBA games in person. Some will never get to go to watch a game live. They carefully select the game or games they are going to attend, picking the one game where their favorite star comes to town. In some cases, like the Lakers in Indiana, that could be just once a year.
I am not one that believes or needs for these sport superstars to be likeable or endearing. I just want them to care about winning, work hard and produce. It’s just refreshing to get a moment like this where a massive superstar like Kobe Bryant takes his very limited time to take the thoughts of the fans in mind and acknowledge their existence and importance to the sport.