Kobe Bryant thinks the NBA should shorten its schedule. Yes, this is the same Kobe Bryant who expressed zero regrets about pushing his body to its very limit against the wishes of the Los Angeles Lakers’ training staff three years ago, which may have led to him rupturing his Achilles tendon. In a feature about the link between the 82-game schedule and injuries by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Tom Haberstroh, Bryant reveals that he has recently changed his stance on the issue:
The question vexing Bryant is probably the same one gnawing at you: “How were [John] Stockton, Michael [Jordan], Magic [Johnson] and those guys — how the hell were they were able to play so many damn games and stay healthy? What has happened, generationally — diet, training, etc. — where players get more hurt now?”
When asked for solutions, Bryant turns logistical: “You shorten the games, you shorten the risk for injury and things of that nature. It definitely helps.”
“The one complaint that I would make,” Bryant says of the schedule, “would be focused on the sport and not really about me, physically, and complaining about what I have to go through.
“We can give the fans a greater show. If guys were able to get more rest and were healthier and all this other stuff, you wouldn’t have players sitting out games, back-to-backs and all this other s—. So everyone would get a maximum performance because players would be extremely well-rested and coming in looking to kick ass every single night and looking to put on a show for [the fans] every single night. The product that the fans would get would be better.”
To Kobe Bryant, it is that simple: Shorten the schedule. “I’m sure something can be done,” he says. “It’s just a matter of, do they want to put in the effort to turn the Titanic around?”
Bryant believes that the mileage today’s players start putting on their bodies when playing AAU basketball affect them when they’re professionals. He thinks that the league can’t just “lose 5-to-10 games” — it would need to cut the number of games so much that it made each regular-season game mean more, which would increase television ratings. He is aware of the logistical and financial aspects of this issue.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has answered questions on this subject in the past couple of years, but he has never seemed enthusiastic about making a major change. Silver has also directly said that every player he knows wants to play 82 games. If more people like Bryant — a legend who is revered for his toughness — speak out on this, it could help change the conversation.