The Lakers were swept out the playoffs last spring by the San Antonio Spurs as Dwight Howard was ejected in Game 4 while Kobe Bryant sat in the locker room because of a recently torn Achilles’ tendon.
Minutes after Howard stormed to the locker room, Bryant hobbled out on crutches to the Lakers’ bench to a standing ovation -- making his first public appearance since he had surgery April 13.
“It was the first time I ever felt that kind of love from a crowd,” Bryant told Sports Illustrated. “Oh, my God, I was fighting back the tears.”
The ejection in the April 28 game would be Howard’s last on-court act as a Laker. He signed with the Houston Rockets in July as a free agent.
Bryant is still trying to work his way back from the injury. His return timeline remains a mystery.
Whether he returns to full strength this season or next, the Lakers All-Star is determined to chase his sixth NBA title.
“My belief is that I’m going to figure it out,” Bryant said. “Maybe not this year or even next year, but I’m going to stay with it until I figure it out.”
Bryant is regularly approached by fans who want to share stories of their own torn Achilles.
“I love the stories,” said Bryant. “It’s like we’re part of the same club. I call these guys my scar brothers.”
Bryant admitted to Sports Illustrated that at times he has felt unsure how he’ll recover from such a devastating injury.
“I have self-doubt,” said Bryant. “I have insecurity. I have fear of failure.
“We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it; but you also don’t capitulate to it,” he continued. “You embrace it. You rise above it.”
Bryant has begun to ramp up his activity in anticipation of a return, although it appears unlikely he’ll be ready by the season opener on Oct. 29 at home against the Clippers at Staples Center.