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Quote history of Kobe: Injuries pile up

From 2013 until the start of the 2015-16 season, various maladies keep Bryant from the court

POSTED: Apr 11, 2016 9:17 AM ET

By Dan McCarney, NBA.com

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More Quote History of Kobe:

"I, Kobe Bryant...have decided to skip college and take my talents to the NBA."

With those words, a precocious 17-year-old phenom from the Philadelphia suburbs launched what would become one of the most decorated careers in NBA history, spanning two decades and a Hall of Fame resume bursting with accolades:

• Five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers

33,570 points, third all time

18 All-Star selections

15 All-NBA selections

Four All-Star MVPs

Two Finals MVPs

The 2007-08 regular season MVP

It was less about what Bryant accomplished than how he did it, with a singularity of purpose that impressed even his role model and mentor, the ferociously competitive Michael Jordan.

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But whereas Jordan was an artist, polished and stylish enough to make his success look almost effortless, Bryant -- who will play his final game Wednesday against the Utah Jazz (10:30 ET, ESPN) -- stubbornly hammered away at his objectives until something broke. Often the opposition, sometimes his own teammates, and now his own body after nearly 60,000 total minutes in the regular season and playoffs.

It's telling that Bryant feuded with the two most important figures in his professional career, Lakers teammate Shaquille O'Neal and coach Phil Jackson.

But as the following collection of quotes will attest, Bryant never wavered from the goal he laid out all those years ago: To wring every last drop of success out of his career that he possibly could, obstacles be damned.

Betrayed by his body

Despite Bryant's best efforts to stave off the ravages of time, they finally began to take their toll in 2013, with a torn Achilles tendon on the eve of the playoffs. (True to form, he refused to leave the court before shooting two free throws, then walked off under his own power.) A catastrophic injury by itself, it was followed by a fractured knee cap in 2013 and a torn rotator cuff in 2015, rendering him a shell of his former self as he returned for one last season in 2015-16.

The Black Mamba Is Back

Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant returns to the court tonight after recovering from shoulder surgery.

"(Being anything but the No. 1 option) is tough to see. One thing I've always been great at is scoring the ball. Even when I'm 35, I think I'll be a bad (expletive)." -- Bryant, Sports Illustrated, 2009

"The warrior that he is, Kobe says, 'Maybe I can run on my heel.' I was like, 'Come on. You have to go.' I think it's his gutsiest moment. To be walking off the floor with his own power. I've seen guys being taken off on wheel chairs for a shoulder injury." -- Vitti after Bryant sank two free throws before leaving the court under his own power following his Achilles injury, InsideSoCal.com, 2013

"I made a move I make a million times, and it just popped. It's a terrible, terrible feeling. I was really tired, man. I was just tired in the locker room. Upset and dejected and thinking about this mountain I have to overcome. This is a long process. I wasn't sure I could do it. But then the kids walked in here, and I had to set an example. 'Daddy's going to be fine. I'm going to do it.' I'm going to work hard and go from there." -- Bryant after tearing his Achilles tendon, ESPN.com, 2013

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"See you guys next season." -- Bryant to the media after a fractured knee brought his 2013-14 season to a premature end, Orange County Register, 2013

"His body is breaking down. It's tough. Why would these guys want to play that long? They make so much money. I wouldn't play that long (if I made that much). Kobe is very dedicated that way. He's worked on his body, but he's having major failures and not just minor stuff. Spontaneously breaking a bone is not a good sign.

"What he does he have to prove? At this point, he should worry about being able to walk around and do normal things for the rest of his life. He's very wealthy and achieved everything in his profession. What does he have to worry about? He can walk away and be satisfied. He has the jewelry and the stats." -- Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Los Angeles Daily News, 2014

Every time he goes out there, I'm always praying that he comes back off the court.

– Michael Oviedo, Bryant's personal therapist, 2015

"I've done the work, man. God knows, I've done the work. If Father Time gets the best, he gets the best. But it's not for a lack of effort." -- Bryant, CBS Sports, 2014

"It's tough to see one of the absolute greatest competitors go through this. You can put a team around a guy to help a guy, especially late in his career. They're just not in position right now to do that. He's won five championships, so no one feels bad for him from that standpoint. But from a standpoint of seeing one of this era's greatest players go out in a rebuilding process, it's tough." -- Dwyane Wade, Associated Press, 2015

"It's tough to see my brother go through that right now, especially this late in his career dealing with the big injuries that he's had so far. It kills me to see him going through that right now. I know him, man...and this is not a way that he wants to go out. So I'm pretty sure he's gonna do whatever he has to do to get back on that court one more time before he hangs them shoes up." -- Carmelo Anthony, New York Daily News, 2015

"These are the scars of being at that elite level for so many years. This is not unheard of or uncommon. Especially in basketball, Achilles tendon injuries, they occur. With this shoulder issue, he can still do well. But he's at that age. He's experiencing the wear and tear of all he's put his body through." -- Surgeon Subir Jossan after Bryant tore his rotator cuff while dunking, Sporting News, 2015

Lakers Training Camp: Kobe Interview

Kobe Bryant speaks with Reggie Miller and Rick Fox about his health, Coach Scott's training camp regimen, and his concerns about a inexperienced roster.

"I'm 70 in basketball years" -- Bryant, Sports Illustrated, 2015

"Eventually, it just catches up to you, man. I've been blessed to be in this league a long time, and Kobe's a great player. But I've seen other great players, and when your time's up, your time's up. It's too bad, but it happens to everybody." -- Rockets coach Kevin McHale, NBC Sports, 2015

"Every time he goes out there, I'm always praying that he comes back off the court." -- personal therapist Michael Oviedo, ESPN The Magazine, 2015

"I lay down in bed sometimes, it just aches. Just sitting there, it just aches. I prop it up with a pillow. There's a whole technique of how to lay on my side and all this other stuff. Nights like that, it's pretty tough. Then, in the morning, you get up and hope it's a little bit better." -- Bryant on the sore right shoulder that has plagued him throughout the 2015-16 season, ESPN.com, 2016

Kobe Talks Life After The NBA

Kobe Bryant talks about getting motivated for another season and his plans for life after basketball.

"It's got to be tough on him. When you lose a lot of games, it hurts. Kobe is definitely one of our greatest players ever. He's a true champion. He's just a tremendous player. He's put on some great shows for us over the years. You feel sorry for him now, but it seems like he's having a little bit of fun with (his farewell tour). We just wish him all the best in the world." -- Pacers president Larry Bird, The Herd, 2015

Part VIII: Return to Finals glory | Part X: To a generation -- 'Our Michael Jordan'