(FOX 11) Kobe Bryant pushed his fraying body and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates relentlessly through the second half of a vital game until he felt a searing pain in his left heel.
Bryant's Achilles' tendon is torn. His season is over.
And though the Lakers held on to beat Golden State, they'll have to continue their playoff chase without their leader.
Bryant scored 34 points while playing much of the second half in obvious pain with an injured left leg, eventually leaving with 3:06 to play in the Lakers' 118-116 win over the Warriors on Friday night.
Bryant hyperextended his left knee early in the half, but didn't come out while the Lakers chased a victory they needed to stay one game ahead of Utah for the eighth playoff spot in the West. Bryant said he hurt himself more seriously on a move he's made countless times in his career while driving to the hoop.
He got the ball on the perimeter, stuck out his leg and pushed off his left foot to drive past Harrison Barnes. Bryant didn't make it two steps before he fell to the court in obvious pain while Barnes was called for a foul, but Bryant stayed in the game long enough to hit his free throws before trainer Gary Vitti helped him to the locker room.
"I can't walk," Bryant said solemnly, leaning on crutches in the Lakers' locker room. "I tried to maybe put pressure on my heel, but there was nothing there."
Bryant called it the most disappointing injury of his career "by far. We worked so hard to put ourselves in position and control our fate."
The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history has been ferociously competitive down the stretch of the Lakers' tumultuous season. While Pau Gasol and Steve Nash have missed long stretches of play with injuries, and while Dwight Howard struggled to get to full strength after last year's back surgery, Bryant played through a sprained ankle and countless minor woes.
"I hate it for Kobe," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I hate it for us. I hate it for L.A., but you have to close ranks. There's no going back now. ... He's just an unbelievable player with a heart, and it is unbelievable."
After playing all 48 minutes while scoring 47 points in Portland on Wednesday, Bryant pushed the Lakers relentlessly forward on one good leg against the playoff-bound Warriors. Golden State got 47 points from Stephen Curry in a dynamic performance, but Bryant led a 9-0 run by hitting consecutive 3-pointers to tie it at 107 with 3:47 left.
Moments later, his season ended.
Bryant said his teammates must "just continue to play. We've been dealing with injuries all year. I'll do what I can, watching film and preparing."
His teammates improbably did just fine without him, with Gasol and Howard getting huge baskets in the final minutes while the Warriors wilted.
Los Angeles (43-37) stayed one game ahead of Utah (42-38) for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference with two games to go. The Jazz hold the tiebreaker.
"He's the greatest competitor, and he's been that all season long, all through his career," said Gasol, who had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in his sixth career triple-double. "He's been an example for us throughout all this. He showed character. He showed heart, and that's what we're going to need from now on."
Howard added 28 points and seven rebounds, capping a competent 14-for-22 effort at the free throw line with one last point with 1.5 seconds left.
After Steve Blake hit the Lakers' go-ahead free throws with 42 seconds left, Jarrett Jack made a turnover and Carl Landry missed an open jumper on the Warriors' final two possessions. Howard clinched the Lakers' 10th consecutive home win over Golden State.
KOBE ON FACEBOOK:
This is such BS! All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I've done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen ?!? Makes no damn sense. Now I'm supposed to come back from this and be the same player Or better at 35?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that??
I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that
was. Maybe this is how my book
ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me...Then again maybe not! It's 3:30am, my foot feels like dead weight, my head is spinning from the pain meds and I'm wide awake. Forgive my Venting but what's the purpose of social media if I won't bring it to you Real No Image?? Feels good to vent, let it out. To feel as if THIS is the WORST thing EVER! Because After ALL the venting, a real perspective sets in. There are far greater issues/challenges in the world then a torn achilles. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever.
One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.
"If you see me in a fight with a bear, prey for the bear". Ive always loved that quote. Thats "mamba mentality" we don't quit, we don't cower, we don't run. We endure and conquer.
I know it's a long post but I'm Facebook Venting LOL. Maybe now I can actually get some sleep and be excited for surgery tomorrow. First step of a new challenge.
Guess I will be Coach Vino the rest of this season. I have faith in my teammates. They will come thru.
Thank you for all your prayers and support. Much Love Always.