With his much-anticipated debut set for Sunday night, Kobe Bryant has etched his name among the many legends who have donned the Lakers storied purple and gold.
The Lakers traded for him for Vlade Divac in 1996, after he originally was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets straight out of Lower Merion High School, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where he was recognized as the top high school basketball player in the country and he has been spectacular ever since.
The all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history, Bryant is coming off a severe Achilles injury suffered last April against the Golden State Warriors.
Bryant, 35, said the final hurdle he had to clear in his rehabilitation training was combining his conditioning with basketball-related activities.
Fresh off signing a–well deserved–“Laker For Ever” extension, the Lakers icon will make his long-awaited return Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.
Bryant’s return gives the Lakers a much-needed shot in the arm with his return. After another season-ending injury to Chicago Bulls point guard, Derrick Rose, Bryant exercised understandable care in making sure he did not return to the Lakers lineup too soon.
The proverbial wheels really came off the wagon last season for the Los Angeles Lakers, but the return of the 15-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion will significantly energize the Lakers who are 9-9 this season and sit 12th in the 15-team Western Conference.
Bryant averaged 27.3 points, 6 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game last season, earning All-Star and All-NBA First Team honors.
Even on a limited status The Black Mamba is a formidable presence. The five-time champion needs just 676 points to move past Michael Jordan for the No. 3 spot on the all-time NBA Scoring List.
And the departures of Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard, along with injuries to Steve Nash, have forced the Lakers to use a very young team.
So far this season though, the Lakers have managed to stay relevant without Kobe. With the help of role players like Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson, the Lakers have put together a respectable record.
If Kobe is able to blend with some of the new Laker players, they have a real shot to make a push for the NBA playoffs.