Kobe Bryant is doing great.
Really great, in fact, for a guy who blew out his Achilles tendon. The injury that has kept most guys out for at least nine months (and ruined more than a few careers), seems to be going a little differently for Bryant.
“The surgical procedure was different […] and because of that the recovery has been different,” Bryant said in the southern city of Shenzhen. “The normal timetable for recovery from an Achilles, we’ve shattered that. Three-and-a-half months I can already walk just fine, I’m lifting weights with the Achilles just fine and that’s different. So we don’t know what that timetable is going to be. It’s kind of new territory for us all.”’
As most people have noted, it is too early to make judgments about Kobe’s rehab. He is only a couple of months into it, and, while it might feel good now, there is no guarantee it will continue to feel this good or progress at the same rate throughout the process. Things can change quickly.
However, just because it is too early to make judgments does not mean people are not making any.
With Kobe’s declaration of amazing progress coming the same day as baseball’s Biogenesis scandal coming to a head, the thought of some unnatural enhancement has crossed into some people’s thoughts.
Take Comcast Sports Net New England’s link to a story about Kobe’s rehab.
And then, of course, there is Twitter, where people are not afraid to make accusations.
As A-Rod gets blasted for steroids, people just pretend like what Kobe doing is completely normal…it's funny
— Bryan Gibberman (@Gibberman10) August 6, 2013
@cc660 kobe has to be juicing like arod
— Cj steed (@CJ_CBF) August 6, 2013
Kobe is deff on hgh or something if NBA cared like baseball does he could turn into the bball Arod
— Carmelo Benz (@MeloSwag7) August 6, 2013
Thanks to Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Lance Armstrong (among many others), the public is much less willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to the seemingly unnatural accomplishments by athletes. Where once we sat wide-eyed in awe of things that defied explanation, many now furrow a brow and yell “pee in a cup!”
Kobe Bryant, rightly or wrongly, is now subjected to the same barbs, especially if he returns from this devastating injury as no one has before.
Many careers have been ended, or significantly altered, by a torn Achilles tendon. If Bryant, a soon-to-be 35-year-old man with about 54,000 career regular season and playoff minutes on his legs, continues to “shatter” the timetable for recovery, the questions will be louder, and they’ll come from more prominent people.
That is not necessarily fair to Bryant, who has never faced any such accusations in the past. But many will say that does not matter and that today’s athletes are constantly under suspicion because so many of them have violated the public’s trust. People still are not quite sure what exactly occurs in Germany with that blood-spinning treatment Bryant and other NBA players have received. By all accounts, it passes the NBA's performance enhancing drug policy.
Still, there was once a time where Tommy John surgery, or an ACL tear were significantly more devastating than they are today. Nowadays, guys can suffer those injuries more than once and still come back to get close to what they were before getting hurt. In some cases, guys come back better.
Someone had to be the first one to do that.
Snide comments aside, there are few people who work as hard as Kobe Bryant at staying fit. Going into an injury at a high level of fitness can significantly reduce the recovery time of that injury. And if this surgery is innovative and different, then it’s entirely possible that the recovery time is, indeed, shorter than we call expect.
In fact, it is the expectations that people project on Bryant that fuel this speculation. If it goes faster than we expect, then some of us will think there is something sinister going on.
Some people will think there is, and they will not be convinced otherwise no matter what. And some people will swear there is not, even if evidence pops up that suggest there might. The rest of us, I believe, sit and hope this is just a matter of bad timing — that a jaded public is just making wild connections between unrelated things.
The sad fact, though, is that no athlete is truly above suspicion these days. No matter how much we would like to believe today’s sports heroes have a supernatural ability to do the things they do, too many of them have proven they do not, which sweeps all of them under the blanked of suspicion.
It is still early yet, so it’s possible none of this will go beyond rude tweets and passing cheap shots. But do not be surprised if voices get louder if Kobe continues to defy the odds.