LOS ANGELES, United States — Kobe Bryant declared his season over after scoring 34 points before leaving the game with a likely torn Achilles tendon, as the Los Angeles Lakers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 118-116 win over Golden State.
Bryant said he felt a “pop” as he tried to beat Harrison Barnes to the outside with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s tight National Basketball Association contest.
“I felt like I got kicked. It is a move I make a million times and pop,” Bryant said. “Just a freak situation I guess.”
Lakers spokesman John Black said after the game that Bryant had a “probable torn Achilles.”
“Bryant will undergo an MRI examination tomorrow to confirm the diagnosis,” Black said.
The all-star guard and future Hall of Famer went one further insisting he already knows the extent of the injury and his season is over.
“I can’t walk. I tried to put pressure on my heel to see if I can do it that way and there is nothing there,” Bryant said. “I had no Achilles, that is the sensation. MRI, surgery and then recovery.”
The Lakers still managed to secure the victory at Staples Center arena without Bryant, as Steve Blake made two free throws with 42 seconds remaining before they held off Golden State to stay in the hunt for a post-season spot.
With just three games left in the season heading into Friday’s contest, the fifth leading scorer in NBA history had been on a punishing pace trying to carry the Lakers on his back down the stretch.
He tried playing entire quarters Friday without taking a break and it finally caught up to him in the third quarter when he injured his knee and foot on separate plays.
But he stayed in the contest until 3:08 in the fourth when he collided with Barnes, drawing a foul. He hobbled to the stripe and sank two free throws to tie the game 109-109 and then limped off the court for the final time and headed straight to the dressing room.
“I hate it. I hate it for Kobe. I hate it for LA,” said Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni.
D’Antoni said he had reluctantly allowed Bryant to dictate his own minutes in games this season. He said he tried, but couldn’t convince Bryant to take more time off.
“He wouldn’t budge on it. Part of me didn’t want him to budge either,” D’Antoni said Friday. “You can second guess it. He is an incredible player. It happened and we will go forward.
“We made decisions collectively and tried to make the best ones we can. But right now it didn’t turn out great.”
The injury comes during Los Angeles’ critical playoff run in which the team currently remains one game ahead of Utah for the eighth and final post-season spot in the Western Conference.
Bryant says the Lakers can still make the playoffs and he feels he can now help the team by taking on a mentor role.
“I can’t be with them out on the floor but I can use my intellect to break down film and help as much as I can from sideline,” Bryant said.
“I never had to deal with something like this. It is a new experience for me.”
Bryant insists he is going to return from this stronger than ever.
“It is fuelling me. I can feel it already,” he said. “Players at this stage of their careers pop an Achilles and the pundits say they never come back the same. I can hear it now.”