“Kobe Bryant and I both felt his bone pop”: Athletic trainer Gary Vitti retells a story of Lakers legend refusing to stop playing in the 2000 Finals ahead of Hall of Fame Induction

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Kobe Bryant and Gary Vitti both knew that his foot had a couple ones dislocated but the Lakers guard refused to sideline himself in Finals. 

Kobe Bryant has been a model for success in the NBA ever since he stepped foot on the court. After all, he did help lead the Los Angeles Lakers to 3 straight championships in merely his early 20s. Though he will always be associated with having been a winner, his personality on the court is what separated him from the rest. 

The tenacity and resilience he showed night in and night out is what birthed the now iconic, ‘Mamba Mentality’; a state of mind where all distractions are avoided and the sole focus of an athlete is on the game itself. A similar concept was explored in Ben Cohen’s ‘The Hot Hand’. 

Kobe Bryant was known for not wanting to miss out on a single game as the notion of load management never crossed the 5x champ’s mind. After all, he did try to stay in the game back in 2013 after tearing his Achilles tendon, resulting in him shooting 2 free throws on said torn Achilles.

Also read: “Kobe Bryant came down and scored with his left hand”: Anthony Davis narrates his favorite Kobe moment ahead of the Lakers legend’s Hall of Fame induction

Kobe Bryant refused to sit out Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers. 

With the 2020 Hall of Fame Induction close by, David Aldridge of the Athletic took a deep dive into the 3 NBA legends that are being inducted into the Hall. He used a story from Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti from 20+ years ago as a way to showcase the tenacity Kobe Bryant displayed on a nightly basis. 

“We want those 26 bones in your feet to be mobile, to have some movement, so they can absorb shock and transfer force. His (Kobe’s) cuboid, which is one of his tarsal bones, is really, really tender,” said Vitti. “I’m working on it and I do a mobilization technique. And I feel a pop, and he can feel a pop. And we both look at each other. I’m like, ‘holy sh-t, that’s it’ and he looks at me and says, ‘that’s it.’” 

“He put his shoe on and he ran. He played the next game and we win in six. We didn’t think he’d play again in the series. It was a minimum 2-3 week injury. Not 2 days.”

“I can feel a pop, and he can feel a pop. … And I’m like, ‘holy s—, man, I think that’s it.’ … He played in the next game, and we win in 6. And we didn’t think he’d play (again) in the series. It was, minimum, a two, three-week injury. Not two days.” https://t.co/0pE0uhJSKE

— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) May 14, 2021

Also read: 3 Reasons why Kobe Bryant’s 2020 Hall of Fame class is better than Michael Jordan’ 2009 Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant’s refusal to take the 2000 NBA Finals off is what led to the Los Angeles Lakers solidifying a 3-1 lead over Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers. He dropped 28 points and 5 assists in the crunch time thriller. 

This decision by the All-NBA guard is what very well could be the linchpin behind the 3-peat they enjoyed in the early 2000s. Winning the 2000 NBA Finals is what led to two more straight championships. However, if Kobe did decide to phone it in and rest for the required amount of time, perhaps the Lakers wouldn’t have been a dynasty after all. 

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