April 5, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) controls the ball against the defense of Memphis Grizzlies small forward Quincy Pondexter (20) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been a few days short of eight months – April 12 to be exact.
That’s an eternity to wait for the millions of passionate Laker fans.
And that’s also an eternity to wait for Kobe Bryant, who announced on Friday that he will play for the first time since tearing his achilles tendon against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday at Staples Center.
His long-awaited debut will be against the Toronto Raptors.
I’m sure that Kobe’s been pleased at the way his Laker teammates have played, as they have gone a solid 10-9 this season in his absence.
I recall stating a few weeks ago, before the begnning of this season, that if the Lakers are at or above .500 when Bryant returns, they’ll have a chance to do something.
Well, to paraphrase Michael Jordan when he returned to the Chicago Bulls after a disastrous try at a baseball career in 1996, “He’s back!”
I apologize in advance for sounding like a Debbie Downer or raining on anyone’s parade, but here’s a little memo for all the Laker fans out there:
I know you are all absolutely ecstatic about the news that Kobe’s coming back, but before making plans to attend the championship parade in downtown L.A. in June, you should keep this in mind…
I, and many other prognosticators, projected these Lakers to be – at best – a third place team in the Pacific Division and a seventh seed team in the Western Conference playoffs.
Oct 8, 2013; Ontario, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (center) and Jordan Farmar react during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
And that was with Kobe Bryant.
Plus, as great a player as he is, and Kobe’s a GREAT player – a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, really – one must remember that he is 35 years old and has spent 18 years on NBA courts.
And no matter how much of a superstar one is, they are almost never the same after an injury like a torn Achilles.
I’m not saying that Kobe will falter or not be as good; he will certainly make the Lakers a more significant factor in the race for the playoffs, but I will say that if fans expect the Kobe Bryant of ten years ago – or even five years ago – they may be disappointed.
It’s a couple of simple ones: Father Time and human nature.
In the meantime, I – as well as pretty much everyone else in L.A. – will be eager to see how Kobe plays.
And if you are fortunate enough to have a ticket for the game, you may want to bring earplugs.
Because you won’t be able to hear yourself when Kobe’s name is announced and when he first steps on to the court.
Here’s a special treat for all those in Laker Nation – A video that Kobe made announcing his return: