Remember the notorious 6-for-24 shooting disaster suffered by Kobe Bryant in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals? With the constant reminders from the media and the ever-present legions of Laker haters, how could you not?
While that disastrous inaccuracy nearly cost the Lakers the NBA title, many forget a major detail that may have led to Bryant’s shooting futility. Seven months earlier, on Dec. 11, Bryant suffered an avulsion fracture in two places near the tip of the right middle finger on his shooting hand.
Rather than sit out six weeks to allow the finger to properly heal, Bryant played through the injury - reconfiguring his shooting stroke in the process.
Playing through the painful injury hampered Bryant’s shooting percentage the rest of the season and, as Kevin Ding of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER reports today, may result in him never playing again “without wearing support for his damaged right index finger.“
More from Ding:
The middle knuckle on that critical finger on Bryant’s shooting hand is so debilitated by arthritis after the past season of misuse and overuse that there may be no real way to fix it.
Bryant will consult with specialists in July to figure out his options, but arthritis is not a problem that can just be cleaned up with arthroscopic surgery or wished away with a little rest.
The middle knuckle was never fractured but was ground down due to Bryant overcompensating for his broken top knuckle as he played through the breaks.
And now that Bryant played out the season with the splint and heavy tape job compensating for the lack of strength in the finger, perhaps he can never live without it.
Cartilage damage in a finger joint simply isn’t easily fixed because there is so little cartilage with which to work. For Bryant’s purposes of shooting and handling a basketball, fusing the joint is hardly a viable option.
What does this mean for Bryant’s future performance?
He led the Lakers to an NBA title despite overhauling his shooting style twice in the past seven months. Shooting touch will do that.
But the finger isn’t Bryant’s only health concern. Ding:
He’ll also have to be in exploring treatment for his right knee, which has already been surgically repaired in 2003 and ’06. There must also be further examination of his left foot.
It was the strained tendon near his left ankle that actually ended Bryant’s streak of three-plus years without missing a game because of injury, benching him for two weeks in February.
Bryant has hinted that he will skip the World Championships this summer and focus on resting (and healing) his body. From what we now know about his multiple ailments, anything less could be catastrophic as it pertains to NBA title hopes of the Lakers going forward.
And even with a full offseason of rest, the days of Bryant playing 70+ regular season games may have already concluded.