Bryant had three straight seasons end prematurely because of injuries toward the end of his 20-year career with the Lakers.
In a lengthy Instagram post Wednesday morning, Bryant offered some comforting words to Hayward, who signed a four-year, $128-million free agent contract this summer with the Celtics after seven seasons with the
“Be sad. Be mad. Be frustrated. Scream. Cry. Sulk,” Bryant wrote to accompany a photo of Hayward in his Celtics uniform. “When you wake up you will think it was just a nightmare only to realize it’s all too real. You will be angry and wish for the day back, the game back THAT play back. But reality gives nothing back and nor should you. Time to move on and focus on doing everything in your power to prepare for surgery, ask all the questions to be sure you understand fully the procedure so that you may visualize it in your subconscious while being operated on and better the chance of it’s success.
“Then focus on the recovery process day by day by day. It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it. Best of luck to you on this journey my brother #mambamentality always.”
Hayward collided with Cleveland’s LeBron James while going up for an alley-oop midway through the first quarter. His leg twisted underneath him, and Hayward came down hard with his left foot pointing in the wrong direction. Players from both sides and fans throughout Quicken Loans Arena could only watch and pray as Hayward’s leg was placed in an air cast and he was taken away on a stretcher.
The Celtics said Hayward suffered a fractured left ankle. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN decisions on a course of treatment would be made Wednesday after Hayward underwent MRI and CT exams that morning.
Bryant missed the final two games of the 2012-13 season after rupturing his Achilles tendon against the Golden State Warriors. He didn’t return until 19 games into the following season, only to injure his left knee six games later and miss the rest of the 2013-14 campaign.
His season ended in January the following year with a torn right rotator cuff. He retired following the 2015-16 season, after missing just 16 games that season.