While we still don’t have any updates on Kobe Bryant’s actual return from his Achilles rupture, two former NBA stars were recently interviewed by ESPN’s Marc Stein about whether they thought Bryant could come back strong from the injury.
Dominique Wilkins suffered a tear in his Achilles at the age of 32. And while he wasn’t able to return to the exact player he was before the injury, Wilkins was still able to play in two more all star games before his career was up. Wilkins averaged 29 points per 36 minutes in his first season back from the injury and says he expects Bryant to be able to come back strong.
“If anybody can come back, Kobe can,” Wilkins says. “And I’ll tell you why I say that: He’s one of the most competitive guys that I’ve ever met. He’s one of those guys that competes on a level like Jordan, Bird and Magic. He has that type of tenacity, that type of attitude, where he’s not going to let anybody tell him what he can’t do. It all depends on the person, how determined and how dedicated you are on working and training to get it back the way it was.
Bryant’s sheer determination over the course of his career has many believing that he can come back and still play at an elite level. Isiah Thomas also suffered the injury toward the end of his career, and says that his lack of determination for coming back is exactly why he believes that Bryant will be on the floor competing at an all star level again.
“Devastating is the correct word. It is a devastating injury. Had I come back and played, I’m sure it would have affected my speed, jumping ability, quickness and so forth and so on. I was older, so I had lost some of that anyway.
“But I would never bet against Kobe. Because what Kobe still has that I didn’t have at the end of my career is that hunger. When you listen to Kobe talk … you still hear and see a hunger that, frankly, I just didn’t have at that point.”
While we’re still waiting on Bryant to return to the floor, the Lakers have gotten off to a 3-4 start, which is weirdly much better than many expected, but still not to the level that fans are used to seeing in Los Angeles. The hope is that the Lakers can compete until Bryant returns, then make a push for a playoff run.
Until that happens, there will be at least two former NBA stars rooting for the return of Bryant.
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