Recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant has turned to soccer star David Beckham for advice.
“Becks and I have grown to be pretty close since he’s been playing in Los Angeles for [the Galaxy] the last five years,” said Bryant in a video interview with ESPN.com.br on Friday while vacationing in Brazil.
Beckham tore his Achilles in 2010, but was able to make a strong return to the pitch.
“He and I talked for quite a bit about his process, and his recovery,” Kobe said. “He hasn’t had any issues with it since. He’s won several championships since the injury, so I’m pretty encouraged by that.”
Bryant was injured on April 12 in a win over the Golden State Warriors. He had surgery the following day, with a projected recovery of six to nine months.
While in Brazil, Bryant met with Hall of Fame Brazilian basketball star Oscar Schmidt, who at 55 years old is battling brain cancer.
“Oscar Schmidt was the guy when I grew up [in Italy],” said Bryant. “He was 35-40 points every night. He was just automatic. I remember just watching him play and saying, ‘Man, if I can shoot like that, at his height [6-foot-9] and to be able to handle the ball at his size.'”
Bryant also tweeted a picture with Brazilian soccer star Leandro Damião.
The Lakers hope to have Bryant at full strength next year but he may not be able to return until November or December.
“It’s going well,” he said of his recovery. “I’m pretty much two months out of surgery, and I’m walking. I can get up on my toes. I’m pleased with how it’s going so far.”
Bryant admitted to having some initial doubts about regaining his physical abilities, but now he uses that as fuel for his recovery.
“You have to allow yourself to think that, because it keeps you on edge. It keeps you motivated. It keeps you strong,” he said. “I think for me, once I started hearing everybody else say, ‘Well, maybe this is it. Maybe this is too much’ — that’s what really gave me the determination to see if I can prove them wrong.”
While he may not play more than another couple of more years, he didn’t want an injury to end his career.
“You want to be able to go out on your own terms. You don’t want to be forced out of the game because of an injury,” he said. “You want to feel like when you’re leaving the game, you’re leaving because you want to.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers are waiting to see if Dwight Howard re-signs as a free agent in July.
“It’s a big summer for us. We don’t know what direction we’re going yet but one thing I know about the Laker organization is that they’re very committed to making sure that we have a team that’s on the floor that’s a competitive team to win a championship,” said Bryant. “Which direction that’s going to be, whether it’s with Dwight or not? I don’t know. We’ll just have to see.”
If Howard returns and with the addition of some youth, length and defensive ability on the perimeter, Bryant is confident the Lakers can compete next year.
“We need a couple of younger legs, long guys that can defend and can cover the floor on the perimeter,” he said. “If we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”