The countless Chinese fans yelled Kobe Bryant’s name, greeted his presence and soaked in every word. The reasons went beyond seeing one of their favorite NBA stars.
It also had to do with Bryant offering a pretty positive assessment surrounding his torn left Achilles.
“My tendon feels really really good,” Bryant said Manila’s Newport Performing Arts Theater at the 2013 Lenovo Manila Tour. I feel well.”
Bryant said those words as he stood on stage moving freely, a sure sign that he’s progressed from an injury that has sidelined him for four months. Whether that means Bryant can return for the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers at Staples Center remains to be seen. When Bryant suffered the injury April 12 against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers estimated he’d stay sidelined for at least six to nine months. According to that timetable, Bryant could return by mid October through mid January.
Still, Bryant’s doing everything he can to expedite the healing process.
Bryant wasted no time having surgery to treat his injury despite the initial frustrations and emotions he faced knowing he’d miss the rest of the season and the chance to carry the Lakers in the playoffs. Bryant also has fit in his rehab with the Lakers’ training staff during vacations to Europe and his Nike promotional trip to China. He added his daily off-season routine involves working out from 6 to 11 a.m. without any distractions.
“I’d much rather suffer and deal with the pain when it’s only my staff and a few other people watching,” Bryant said. “I’m out working out and running on the track and and it’s just me and then be ready for 20,000 or however millions of people are watching as opposed to not dealing with it when no one is watching it and be on TV in front of everybody like this.”
Bryant then tugged on his pants and leaned down, a gesture players often do when they’re fatigued. That’s why his advice toward aspiring basketball players also reflected his overall mindset on prioritizing his love for the sport above all else.
“Whatever your goal is, whatever your dream is, go after it,” Bryant said. “Then the steps that come in after that, that’s the hard part. You have to pay attention to the details. It’s contant work and a constant grind. There’s a lot of times your friends may be out partying and you have to make a choice and a decision on what’s more important to you. Is it important to hang out and do all these things. or is it more important to focus on getting to your goal.”
Bryant chose the latter, resulting in five NBA championships, a fourth place on the NBA all-time scoring list and two Olympic gold medals. But his 17-year NBA career with the Lakers also entailed some rough patches. Bryant butted heads with Shaquille O’Neal because of his work ethic and his hope to have a larger role on the team. Frustrated by two early first-round exits in the playoffs, Bryant unsuccessfully demanded in 2007 that the Lakers trade him. Dwight Howard bolted to the Houston Rockets this summer via free agency partly because he tired of Bryant’s demanding leadership style.
Yet, Bryant maintains he doesn’t hold any regrets for his high-wired personality.
“The topic of leadership is always a very touching one for people because most of the time leaders have to make unpopular decisions and have to do things that are unpopular. A lot of leaders fail because they don’t have the bravery to touch that nerve or to strike that chord,” Bryant said. “For me throughout my years, I haven’t had that fear. It may rub people the wrong way. But at the end of the day, you want to get results. That’s what it’s all about. That’s the common goal to make sure you continue to push. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to temper that and better understand how to communicate to indivudals a certain way.”
That includes understanding the distinguishing qualities among superior athletes.
“I think it’s curiosity,” Bryant said. “I don’t think it’s just in basketball. I think it’s in anything. You have curiosuty to constantly try to figure out ways to get better and constantly figure out ways you cabn learn from others. That includes your peers and includes other things outside of basketball. whether it’s art, music or whatever it may be, you try to find different ways to better yourself by looking at others.”
That’s why Bryant quickly offered a ranking on his favorite hip hop albums.
“I have to say Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt still remains my favorite album,” said Bryant, who entered the NBA in 1996 the same year that album was released. “American Gangster is a close second. Life After Death with Biggie Smalls. I’ll go with Reasonable Doubt.”
There’s no doubt, however, about Bryant’s determination. Hence, his positive assessment on his torn left Achilles tendon that left all the fans reacting with delight.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org