Los Angeles Lakers trainer Gary Vitti has been a very busy man over the past two seasons. Aside from Kobe Bryant‘s injuries, the Lakers have dealt with extended absences from other players including Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. Vitti spoke about his role on the team this week, and also expressed a lot of confidence in Kobe’s ability to remain an elite player for this upcoming season.
Kobe tore his Achilles tendon in April 2013, then suffered a knee fracture in December of the same year, knocking him out for the remainder of the 2013-14 season. Vitti says it’d be crazy to bet against Kobe coming back to full health next season, and points to his diet as one of the main reasons why:
He’s gone to the next level of nutrition. In fact, he has somebody come and picks his meals up here at the practice facility. Our chef makes his meals daily. He’s also done a lot of functional movement assessment over this past year that he’s been out, identifying how the way he’s played over all these years had created some dysfunction. When you’re young, you can get away with that, but it catches up as you get older and he’s paying more attention corrective exercise prior to performance. Kobe is doing everything right.
You said something about not wanting to bet against him, but I would like you to do that, publicly. Not that he needs any more motivation. Kobe Bryant is a brilliant basketball player. Kobe Bryant is a great athlete, but there were actually players that were more athletic than Kobe. So why him? It’s in his mind and his heart and soul. He just has something about him that most people don’t. No matter what you think of Kobe Bryant, he’s extremely athletic, extremely talented, works harder than anyone else, is tough as nails and intellectually brilliant. You can’t take those five things away from him.
It’s not a surprise to hear this about Kobe. As he gets up there in age, maintaining his body becomes very crucial. Having been around Nash — who is almost obsessive compulsive about his diet — the past couple of years must have impacted Kobe as well.
Vitti also addressed another interesting question, which is whether the increased workload Mike D’Antoni was giving Kobe may have led to his injury. If you remember, late in the 2012-13 season, the Lakers were scrambling just to get into the postseason, needing a 28-12 finish to sneak in.
On most nights, Kobe was playing 48 minutes a game. Vitti did not dismiss the notion that the minutes contributed to a higher probability of Kobe getting injured, but also thinks it’s simply because Kobe has played a lot of basketball in his life:
A lot of people said it was the 47 minutes per game. That’s tough to argue with. Let’s go further. Why did it have to be that game, or the game before, or the game after? Let’s use the word attrition. Why was it that period of time? What about the entire season, or the season before?
Maybe it’s the attrition of his whole life playing basketball, and maybe on that particular day, with that particular move, the attrition of all those things came together. Or maybe it’s the speed of the game? Maybe it’s the dysfunction over time that is impossible to undo.
Last month, Kobe addressed reporters in Brazil and said his knee was fully healed. Now, we’ll see what the 35-year-old version of Kobe can do on a Lakers team many expect to miss the playoffs.
We know Vitti won’t be betting against him, and Kobe reminded everyone after his knee fracture in December, “only an idiot” would doubt his return.
What do you think?
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