The word that comes to mind on the latest Kobe Bryant injury news?
NBA fans are deprived of about 21 chances of what are starting to feel like increasingly finite opportunities to watch Bryant play basketball. Bryant is deprived of the joy he clearly gets from the game. The Lakers could be deprived of roster flexibility if more than a third of their salary cap the next 2½ seasons is devoted to a player who can't stay on the court. And it's looking as if his increasingly fragile body could deprive him of a chance to set the NBA's all-time points mark.
We'll calculate those numbers in a moment, but first, it's natural to wonder about the emotional repercussions, which eventually will dictate whether Bryant wants to stick around long enough to reach the top of the record book.
The torn left Achilles tendon that Bryant suffered in April actually served to renew his will to play. At a time when he was wondering if he could keep pushing himself to maintain his high standards, the major injury provided all the incentive he needed. He'd show everyone who doubted him that he could come back and play as well as ever. Surgery the next day, rehab as soon as the swelling went down. Every perceived slight simply meant more reps.
He came back inside the six-to-nine-month window that was projected, and managed to score at least 20 points three times in six games -- in addition to a 13-assist night the first time he was asked to fill in at point guard.
Then came Thursday's news that he would be out another six weeks with a broken bone in the kneecap of that same left leg, and with it came a whole new set of issues and challenges. At some point the injuries will stop being motivational tools and start to become deterrents. They could even force Bryant to come to terms with a word that I wonder if he's ever said to himself: impossible.
Let's do the math. If Bryant comes back in exactly six weeks there will be 36 games left in the Lakers' season. If he plays all of those, and every game in the two seasons remaining on his contract, he'll have 200 games left to score the 6,688 points he needs to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Abdul-Jabbar wore No. 33, and that's the number of points per game Bryant would need to average to get there -- 33.44 points, to be precise. Kobe hasn't scored 30 points a game since the 2006-07 season, when he averaged 31.6. If Bryant came back for an additional full season it would drop his scoring requirement from now through 2016-17 to 23.7 points per game.
When Bryant sat down with the TV crew before ESPN's broadcast of the Lakers-Thunder game last week, Jeff Van Gundy asked if Bryant would add years to his career just to chase Abdul-Jabbar's record. Bryant said he wouldn't because he didn't set Abdul-Jabbar's record as one of his goals when he first got into the game, so it's not something that would drive him as he neared the end.