It might come tonight, or more likely not for a few weeks. But at some point in the not-so-distant future, Kobe Bryant, who returned to practice last weekend, will play an NBA game. So, what can we expect from Bryant? Along with the insight of medical professionals, the history of NBA players coming back from Achilles ruptures can offer a general guide.
With the help of a list compiled by the Association for Professional Basketball Research's Robert Bradley, I've found 25 players before Bryant who suffered ruptured Achilles during their NBA careers since 1990. (One of them, 1990s center Stanley Roberts, did so twice.) Of them, eight never played in the NBA again or retired after a handful of games, producing the scary-looking retirement rate researchers at Drexel University cited in their study of Achilles ruptures. Other than Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, who had announced his retirement before the injury, the other players were largely fringe types. Two of them, Courtney Alexander and Laron Profit, played in training camps or overseas but simply never made an NBA roster again.