That's right, I'm going to defend one Kobe Bean Bryant. I never thought this moment would come, and I'm struggling to go through with it. However, I must.
You see, Kobe is being screwed over by the league in which he is the best player. Yeah, I said it. The league that he brings millions of viewers to pack the arenas and watch on television. Kobe makes regular season NBA games worth watching for casual fans, and that's quite a feat. He makes young kids around the world want to play basketball, more so than anybody since Michael Jordan.
If you haven't heard, Kobe has a torn ligament on the pinkie finger of his shooting hand. Maybe you're saying to yourself, "It's a pinkie finger. Deal with it." If you're saying that, you obviously haven't played much competitive basketball. As either Ric Bucher or Marc Stein put it today(sorry I don't remember which ESPN basketball analyst it was), 99.9% of NBA players do not play through this injury. It can alter your shot, and certainly makes just holding the basketball painful. Kobe's doctor recommended that he get surgery, and even the Lakers owner Jerry Buss suggested the surgery to make sure this injury does not get worse. Getting surgery would likely keep Kobe out 6-8 weeks. However, Kobe is as tough as they come in sports. He has an incredible desire to win, and realizes that the Lakers need him if he can play through it. The Lakers are currently 2 games out of the #1 seed in the Western Conference, but the #8 seed is only 5 games out. Without Kobe for up to two months, it's quite possible that the Lakers would fall out of the playoff race. So he's going to try and play through this injury, and although I hate the guy, I respect the hell out of that.
So, if Kobe is going to try and play through this injury, it would be quite wise to sit out of an exhibition game. I'm of course referring to this weekend's All-Star Game. Although this is the game for fans, it is still an exhibition game. Kobe has done enough for the fans, and he could really put on an even bigger show for the fans if he can lead the Lakers to another NBA title. That's what really matters, not an exhibition game. The fans will be pleased enough with the players in that game anyway.
Yet if Kobe does not play in this game, he will be suspended for one game by the NBA. The NBA has a policy that essentially says if you are healthy enough to play in the last game before the All-Star Game, then you are healthy enough to play in the All-Star Game. If you do not play in the All-Star Game, you will be suspended for the next game following the All-Star Game. Listen, I understand their thinking with the rule, and there's certainly been examples in the past of guys that were plenty healthy enough to play in their sport's All-Star Game and chose not to. I just feel like this should be an exception to the rule, or maybe they should allow a player to appeal the ruling. What if Kobe were to hurt his finger even more in the All-Star Game, and need surgery that would prevent him to miss the rest of the season?
Kobe wants to sit this game out, but also does not want to be suspended for a game. 1 game can be a big deal in the Western Conference. If the Lakers lost 1 game, they could drop all the way from the 3rd seed to the 6th seed. It sounds like he will start the game for the West, since he's pretty much being forced to, and then will sit out the rest of the game. I hope his 2 minutes on the floor are worth it David Stern, and you better hope he doesn't get hurt.