With one whack to the nose, Kobe Bryant gave Scott Brooks a first-hand look at what made the Thunder coach admire the Lakers star so much from afar.
Brooks, like any NBA coach or player, has always gushed over Bryant’s toughness, longevity, competitiveness and efficient footwork. Those qualities often cause the biggest nightmares for opposing teams when they try to stop the Lakers’ star. But when he coached the Western Conference team in the 2012 NBA All-Star game, Brooks gained an extra sense of appreciation for it.
Brooks saw varying images of Bryant that left him shaking his head as he processed it all.
First, Brooks saw Miami guard Dwyane Wade deliver a hard foul that broke Bryant’s nose. Yet, Bryant stayed in the game.
“I asked him about it,” Brooks said about the incident with 8:48 left in the third quarter. “He said, ‘I’m all right, coach.’ ”
Second, Brooks saw Bryant score 27 points on nine-of-17 shooting, surpassing Michael Jordan’s All-Star record with 271 points in 13 All-Star game appearances. He then witnessed Bryant guarding LeBron James in the final possession only to see him pass on the final play.
“He was animated that he wanted to guard their player,” Brooks said. “He wasn’t going to let them score.”
Lastly, Brooks realized that the pain Bryant played through proved more severe than even he knew. After the game, Bryant was diagnosed with a mild concussion from the foul. Bryant recovered from the concussion a few days later and played with a plastic mask to protect his tender nose.
“This guy has a concussion, his nose is bleeding and they’re working on it,” Brooks said. “And somehow, he plays through it all.”
Laker fans may have grown numb to the process or at least expect Bryant always to show invincibility. But as he recalled the incident Tuesday night at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Brooks was still impressed.
“I’m seeing this and thinking, ‘Wow, it’s just an All-Star game.’ ” Brooks said. “This guy loves the game and does not accept losing as the option. I’m glad he played because we won and Kevin [Durant] got the MVP.”
Brooks said his Oklahoma City players who were All-Star teammates of Bryant -- Durant and Russell Westbrook -- should benefit from Bryant’s example in the game. All three, as well as the Thunder’s James Harden, were also members of the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the 2012 London Olympics.
“That’s the great benefit of being around great players,” Brooks said. “You see how he approaches the game. You see how serious they are about their craft. It’s impressive. They’ve always come back and say that guy is a competitor and he competes. He doesn’t like to lose at anything.”
Even if it means playing with a broken nose.
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