Peyton Manning missed an entire year with a debilitating neck injury. Adrian Peterson shredded an ACL and an MCL. Mariano Rivera crumpled to the ground on a Kansas City afternoon with a blown-out ACL.
Those three athletes came back just as good – Manning and Peterson at MVP levels, and Rivera back to his flame-throwing self. Let’s hope Kobe Bryant can do the same. No matter what your feelings might be on Bryant personality-wise, we all have to appreciate just how astonishing an athlete he is. LeBron might be a physical marvel, Durant might be a machine and Tim Duncan might be the steadiest superstar in the history of the league, but Bryant is the only one who has come close to matching the amazing touch and unstoppable will that Michael Jordan brought to the table in his heyday.
His prime is well over – all of those tough playoff minutes and tacked-on international travel for the Olympics have taken their toll – but he just about dragged the chaotic Lakers to the playoffs this season, and should be applauded for that. This torn achilles ended any hope they had of shocking their way to a title; they’ll likely be first- or second-round fodder for one of the Western powers. They probably wouldn’t have won even if they had Kobe, but still, it would have been a lot much more fun seeing him on the court (and hearing his suddenly personable attitude off of it). Let’s hope he takes all the time he needs to come back, and returns sometime next season to entertain us again with his brilliance.