Former Lakers athletic trainer tells epic story of Kobe Bryant playing just 2 days after suffering 3-week injury

Brad Sullivan
3 Min Read

Prior to Kobe Bryant’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend, longtime Los Angeles Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti has offered an anecdote about Bryant’s refusal to stop playing during the 2000 NBA Finals despite a sprained ankle

David Aldridge of The Athletic looked at each of the 2020 inductees, whose official ceremony was delayed from last year. He cited Vitti’s story that embodied Bryant’s trademark competitiveness.

“There’s 26 bones in your foot, plus two sesamoid bones,” Vitti said. “And every time two bones come together, they form a joint. And so we want a stable ankle, but we want a mobile foot. We want those bones in your feet to be mobile, to have some movement, so they can absorb shock and transfer force. And so his cuboid, which is one of his tarsal bones, is really, really tender. And I’m working on it, and I’m mobilizing it, and I’m mobilizing it. And I do a mobilization technique. And I can feel a pop, and he can feel a pop. And we both look at each other. And I’m like, ‘holy s—, man, I think that’s it.’ And he looked at me, and he goes, ‘that’s it.’ And he got off the table and he walked around, and said ‘that’s it.’ And he put his shoe on, and he ran. And he played in the next game, and we win in six. And we didn’t think he’d play (again) in the series. It was, minimum, a two, three-week injury. Not two days.”

Bryant had missed Game 3 of that series against the Indiana Pacers, a 100-91 victory for the Pacers that helped them slice their previous 2-0 deficit in half.

Not wanting to see the Pacers tie the series, Bryant came back to contribute to the Lakers’ 120-118 Game 4 win. The win gave them a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. They won the series in six games to win the NBA championship.

In that contest, Bryant finished with 28 points, five assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal.

That 2000 title was the first of five times that Bryant would help lead the Lakers to a championship during his iconic 20-year career with the franchise.

Bryant’s tragic death in January of last year makes his Hall of Fame induction a poignant one, but one in which many other tales of his insatiable desire to win will be recalled.

Saturday’s ceremony was delayed from last August because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Brad is a freelance writer for, who can clearly recall watching Lakers games in 1972 as they captured the first of their 11 Los Angeles-based titles. The franchise's evolution into a beloved and iconic franchise among its fan base since that memorable year allows for a wider perspective to be a part of his writing about the team's current fortunes.