He carried the Lakers for as long as his weary body could carry them, a relentless giant among underachieving mortals.
But, finally, in the last lap of his most difficult season, bearing the burden of a franchise in chaos, Kobe Bryant has finally crumbled.
In the final minutes of the Lakers 118-116 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday, after earlier falling to the floor twice with apparent knee injuries, Bryant suffered a probable torn left Achilles’ tendon that should end his season and perhaps his Lakers career.
Two games from the end of this awful 2012-13 regular season, the Lakers’ season is essentially done. Even if they win those two games to clinch the eighth and final Western Conference seeding in the playoffs, without Bryant the Lakers have little chance to advance past Oklahoma City or San Antonio.
More important for the franchise, Bryant’s Lakers career may never be the same. He has one year left on his contract, but much of next season will probably be spent rehabilitating a most devastating of injuries.
“You work so hard it’s just [bleep],” said a somber Bryant afterward, his eyes reddening. “I can’t walk. I tried to put pressure on my heel. There’s just nothing there.”