The future Hall of Famer was on his way to another 48-minute night, but says no one will ever know if all the minutes he’s been playing lately contributed to the injury.
“Impossible to tell,” he said. “I just know it was necessary to play as much as I could for us to win.”
After fighting through two earlier leg injuries during the game, Bryant tried a routine spin move with 3:08 left in the game.
Routine quickly turned tragic for Bryant, the Lakers and their fans.
“I made a move I made a million times before,” a red-eyed Bryant told reporters after the game. “This time it just popped. It felt like I got kicked. There was just nothing there.”
A foul was called on Harrison Barnes and Bryant somehow managed to stay in the game, making both free throws on one leg to tie the game at 109. Bryant was also trying to figure out how he could stay in the game.
“I put pressure on my heel, to see if I could do it that way,” he said. “But it was gone. There was just…nothing there.
After a foul was committed by Steve Blake to stop the game, Kobe walked off the court for the last time in the 2012-13 season, replaced by another medical marvel,
Metta World Peace,
who came back from knee surgery in less than two weeks. The Lakers were able to pull out the win and maintain their one-game lead over Utah for the final Western Conference playoff position.
But even with the Jazz playing their last two games on the road, one is against hapless Minnesota, which the Jazz has beaten all three times they’ve played this season. The Jazz close out against Memphis, which they beat in Utah on March 16 by a score of 90-84.
The Lakers host San Antonio on Sunday and Houston on Wednesday, both of whom should be able to beat the Lakers — especially with Bryant out. But the patient says to be patient with his team, that they can still win out and claim a postseason berth.
“(They just have to) continue to play,” Bryant said. “We’ve been dealing with injuries all year. I’ll do what I can watching film and preparing them for the best formula of how to attack certain other teams.”
His help will be much appreciated by Mike D’Antoni and his staff, as will the return a very key player.
“I’m not going to sit here and blow smoke out, but there are things we can do,” D’Antoni said in his post-game news conference. “We’re going to get (Steve) Nash back, and we’ll have three All Stars out there, and we’re gonna play. We’re going to be ready Sunday [against San Antonio] and fight it hard to the end and make the playoffs. That’s out goal and it’s not going to change.
“We have to close ranks, and I hate it. I hate it for Kobe, I hate it for us and I hate it for L.A. There’s no use falling back now. We’ve got to come out swinging.
“Pau (Gasol) has been playing at such a high level with Dwight (Howard), and hopefully we get Nash back on Sunday. We have enough to keep winning.”
With the next game in less than 48 hours, Lakers players will have to deal with the reality that their heart, soul, conscience and leader have been taken away for the rest of the year.
Gasol says it won’t be easy.
“It’s hard to know that happened,” said Gasol, who collected a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Howard added 28 points and seven boards, while the Warriors' Stephen Curry led all scorers with 47.
“It’s a tough hit, a tough blow for everyone who knows him. And for those of us who love and respect him, [it hurts] even more. It’s a difficult time and I feel for him.
“It’s tough. Really tough.
“As a team we have to re-group and realize it’s going to take a lot of togetherness from now on in order to play well.
“We’ll figure it out. And as long as we put our minds and our hearts in it and fight every single minute the way we did tonight, we should be OK. But right now, it’s hard to adjust to what happened.”