In his final game against Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant had a bad time. He played just nine minutes before leaving the game with an aching shoulder and banged up knees. The Los Angeles Lakers looked a lot better with him not playing at all, pulling off a stunning overtime win.
Bryant doesn’t want to be remembered like this. It’s the reason he’s playing with an injured shoulder, getting rest from time to time. In the previous seasons he was shut down early due to injuries, more and less serious, to avoid risking him ending up like Steve Nash, who couldn’t properly have a retirement season from all the pain he was in whenever he stepped on the court, having his back completely destroyed by playing basketball.
But this is Bryant in his final season. He had a nice little stretch in which he was actually efficient and looked like someone who realizes what he can and can’t do, while the fake love of millions showers down upon him during his retirement tour, saying his farewell in each city to each team, playing against them for the final time. Maybe in his mind he’s still the Bryant that was the best player in the league (was he ever), the best shooting guard in the league and a king during the clutch (wrong perception. Simply shot a lot, but was quite inefficient in crunch time), but there’s this version of him, which is more accurate as he’s completing his 20th NBA season, barely able to play basketball.
Bryant has played in 59 games this season, more than in the previous two seasons combined. There are 7 left. There’s obviously going to be rest for him in the two weeks that remain in his career, in this season. With two games against the Los Angeles Clippers, one against the Boston Celtics, one against the Oklahoma City Thunder (“passing the torch” nonsense with Durant & Westbrook) before the finale at home against the Utah Jazz. Bryant won’t miss that. He doesn’t want to miss anything, but keeping this up might force him too, with his body being in the shape it is right now.