Those 13 years of battling in the paint and slugging it out against the Lakers has left Houston Rockets coach and former Celtics forward Kevin McHale walking with a noticeable limp.
Once all these years pass, will the same happen to Kobe Bryant?
“That’s so hard to say. Eventually it catches up to you,” McHale said before the Lakers’ 99-87 loss on Sunday to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. “Kobe has been blessed to be in this league for a long time and he’s a great player. But I’ve seen other great players, when your time is up, it’s too bad.”
An MRI exam and a doctor visit last week both confirmed that Bryant has a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. But the 36-year-old Bryant will have a second opinion on Monday in hopes to consider options beyond season-ending surgery. Bryant could decide as early as Monday what he will do, though could take more time before taking his next step in recovery.
If Bryant has surgery, this would mark the third consecutive year his season ended abruptly. He shattered his left Achilles tendon on April, 2013 and rehabbed for the following eight months. Bryant then played in six games last season before fracturing his left knee. In his 19th NBA season, Bryant averaged 22.3 points albeit on a career-low 37.3 percent shooting through 35 games.
Can Bryant overcome his latest challenge?
“Who knows,” McHale said. “I wish him all the best and always admired him and is a hell of a competitor. But everything comes to an end.”
McHale learned that the hard way.
He broke his right foot in 1987 and spent the next six years laboring various lower-leg and foot ailments. McHale eventually retired in 1993 after the Celtics lost in first round of the NBA playoffs to the Charlotte Hornets.
“My body just said you’re not playing anymore. It’s different for everybody, I imagine,” McHale said. “It’s hard. You’re used to seeing your body responding. If you’re a good player, you’re used to your body bouncing back and doing a lot of stuff. You never really thought it could not hold up. At some point, it goes down.”
When that will happen for Bryant will be answered soon.