How Kobe Bryant Dished Out the Assist in Corey Maggette’s Injury Comeback

Kobe Bryant Corey Maggette

Getty Kobe Bryant & Corey Maggette.

Week one in the inaugural BIG3 season, Power captain Corey Maggette was on a tear scoring 15 of his team’s first 34 points. All tied up at 34 against Tri-State, Maggette took the ball at the top of the 3-point line, pump-faked and had his man beat. As it looked like he was about to explode down the lane, Maggette’s legs appeared to stop in motion. The ball in his hands as he came down, he let go of it as he landed. Silence in the crowd, Maggette just laying on the court holding his leg – the game stopped.

“At that moment, I thought it was a stinger,” Maggette said. “I tried to go off on my own, I wasn’t about to let nobody carry me, that was a no-no.”

Maggette went to the bench and would watch the rest of the game standing on the sidelines, cheering his team on. He didn’t want to overreact and panic, he remained calm and was still focused on trying to win their first game of the season.

After the game, Maggette would head back to the locker room and get checked out by the medical staff.

“I just remember them saying ‘we don’t want to say it’s an Achilles, but it looks like it,’” Maggette said. “My whole world felt like it was crashing. For me, I retired because of some injuries that I couldn’t play to my potential with and now, I have to go through this? I should’ve just stayed retired.”

Maggette played 14 seasons in the NBA and was known as one of the best scorers in the league. But, his later career was cut short due to ongoing knee injuries. One of the most physically gifted players this game has seen, Maggette kept his body in tremendous shape but admits the knee problems had persisted and were harder to manage over the years.

The Text Message From Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

GettyKobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles in the fourth quarter during the game against the Chicago Bulls on November 19, 2009.

This was seen as the opportunity for him to re-write his late chapter and change his legacy. With an injury like an Achilles, many would think he would’ve opted for the easier, yet still grueling route of recovering and not playing again. However, it was a text from Kobe Bryant the next day that helped make the decision for him.

“I was in New York still and I remember getting a text from Kobe that next morning,” Maggette said. “Kobe’s message said ‘Damn bro, I heard about you tearing your Achilles. It’s just one obstacle and you can overcome it. There’s a stereotype with this injury. You got to dig in, you’ve got to lock in and push yourself beyond the limits. If you want to come back and be able to do something that people think you can’t, you’ve got to do more than the work.”

Maggette would go through a year of rehabilitation with ups and downs, always with the idea of coming back to play. But there were many setbacks, one of which was an issue that not many will encounter – a right knee with tendonitis while trying to recover from an achilles on the same leg. He had to work around specific exercises on certain days and when it felt good, he made sure to push himself to limits beyond the expectations to make up for lost ground.

“You’ve ruptured a major tendon and even if you have it repaired, the way things heal, it’s never the original model,” Kathryn O’Connor, an assistant professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine told Penn Today. “It’s never the same, normal, healthy tendon that it was. Even when you repair it, it still has a level of scar tissue in it that may not have the same amount of pliability to allow for the same amount of explosive activity. It may be that when it heals, it doesn’t heal with the right amount of tension. Sometimes it’s just that muscles atrophy enough that it’s just too difficult to really get the strength all the way back. But no matter what you do, the injured side is never as strong as it originally was, or really as strong as the other side because it’s just a different tendon than it was before.”

Maggette faced a long road and even up until a week before season two, he says he didn’t know if he’d be ready to play. The mental aspect of returning from an injury like this after overcoming others was just as difficult as the physical aspect.

Corey Maggette’s Return to Basketball After Injury

Corey Maggette

GettyCorey Maggette with Power in BIG3.

12 months from his BIG3 season one debut, Maggette would step back on that same court in season two and looked the same, if not better than before. It would be the start of one of, if not the most, impressive individual and team runs in his career.

However, in week three of his comeback season, he’d witness something that he was all too familiar with. When 3 Headed Monsters faced off against Killer 3’s, Maggette’s friend Rashard Lewis was dribbling inside the paint as he lost his footing and collapsed on the ground. Holding his left leg in grimace and clear pain, Rashard would get helped off the court and find out that he had torn his Achilles.

“Right after he went down, we knew exactly what happened,” a team source told us. “Everyone was devastated, especially knowing how close we were to becoming champions in the first season and his desire to win in that next season.”

Maggette called Lewis right after the injury and tried to give him the same advice that was given to him.

“I tried to give him all the information that I was given from doctors and Kobe,” Maggette said. “I just tried to tell him how I got through it and that I would be there for him when he needed me. Rashard is a standup guy and a class act. We all wanted to make sure he came back stronger than ever.”

As Lewis would watch Maggette’s season go on as he was rehabilitating his Achilles, Maggette’s trainers and doctors (when he was hurt) Tommy Andre and Jocelyn Miranda would also check in on Lewis. Similar to Maggette, Lewis would go through ups and downs and because it was so fresh in Maggette’s mind, he knew what he was feeling.

“I remember a conversation with Rashard where he was saying ‘I can’t jump at times, I want to feel like I am confident with it,’ Maggette said. “I told him that the best way for me to get through it was to just push through it and if it snaps, then it snaps. But you have to go through it and trust your body, that’s the most difficult part.”

Maggette would go on to lead his team to the playoffs averaging 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists along with scoring the most points in a BIG3 game. Power went on to make it to the championship, where Lewis thought he’d be. Instead, Lewis would be at home rooting for Maggette and Power to hoist the trophy.

”Corey was that motivation for me,” Lewis said. “Like, when I saw him come back better than ever, I knew I could do it.”

Kobe Bryant’s Advice for Corey Maggette Before Championship

For Maggette, this would be only the second time in his professional career that he’d been playing in a postseason. For the first time, he’d be playing for a championship. However, he didn’t even know if he’d be able to suit up as close to a few hours before the game due to a lingering hamstring injury and he told his team not to expect him to play.

“I remember texting Kobe the day before the championship and saying ‘damn bro, I don’t know how I’m going to pull this thing off.’” Maggette said.

“He told me to make sure that I limited the amount of movement during the game and to make it as precise as possible.”

That night before arguably the biggest game in his professional career, Maggette would rely on Kobe’s long-time neuro-muscular scientist, Barrence Baytos. Baytos was initially introduced to Maggette by way of Kobe while he was playing in the NBA. But, when he heard from Kobe what Maggette was going through before his big game, he flew from a family vacation to New York and worked with Maggette.

“For 24 hours straight he worked with us, I don’t even remember sleeping.” Maggette told us. “We were doing rehab the entire time, I don’t even think he slept either. We did one last treatment at around 11 AM on the morning of the championship and then he flew back to his family.”

Coming back from one of the worst injuries in sports, Maggette with an injured hamstring would score 27 points en route to winning the 2018 BIG3 Championship. After the game and celebrations, Maggette would look at his phone to see a text from Kobe.

“Kobe had watched the game and right after, texted me,” Maggette said. “The text read, ‘you got the job done, welcome to entering a championship moment. Congratulations because your ass sure wasn’t going to win one in the NBA playing for all those bad teams.’”

Maggette & Power Set Sights on Repeat

Maggette and Power had their sights set on repeating for season 3, but Maggette knew every team would be gunning for them including Lewis’s 3 Headed Monsters. Lewis would make his comeback in week one of season 3 and Maggette remembers that moment vividly. A warm embrace between two friends and opponents that signaled much more than a game. Two players that battled back and came back in remarkable form.

“That moment meant a lot to me,” Maggette said. “I was so happy to see him back on the floor. At the time, I was dealing with a nagging injury on the left side of my leg and Lewis told me some of the same stuff I told him. So we both helped each other and it’s a bond that we have from these things that’s special.”

In the latest season, Lewis would go on to have an impressive campaign averaging 12.5 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists per game while the 3 Headed Monsters would go on to beat Maggette and Power in the third-place game. Both Maggette and Lewis proved that the worst injury to a player’s career can be a motivating tool that pushes them to limits they didn’t think were possible. And it’s also motivating other players around the league in similar circumstances.

Take Ball Hogs draftee Jermaine Taylor, who suffered a torn Achilles early in season 3.

“I was heartbroken,” Jermaine Taylor said after finding out he’d suffered the season-ending injury. “I had worked so hard to get to that point. I was excited and I thought it was going to be great season for me. To have that end in the first few minutes of the first game, it was heartbreaking.”

This wasn’t Taylor’s first injury, he suffered an ACL and meniscus tear earlier in his professional career which prevented him from getting an NBA deal. But, it was different this time around. An injury that has a negative stigma and one that doesn’t have as clear of a recovery. However, he says Maggette and Lewis’s injury recoveries helped assure him, he’d be better.

“No knock on them, but they’re older than me,” Taylor said. “Seeing them come back, especially what Corey did, motivated me. I spoke with both of them shortly after the injury happened and they both helped answer some questions and gave me advice.”

When Taylor was cleared to start walking in the late summer, he’d show up to BIG3 games watching how both Lewis and Maggette played closely, he says. The two of them serve as examples for Taylor of how he can come back even better than before. Now, Taylor wants to be that example for others.

“Everything is there for a reason,” Taylor said. “That’s how I approach it. I just try and get better from each experience. I have this love for the game for a reason and the injuries haven’t taken that away. They say the toughest shoulders have the strongest battle, so I feel like I have to go through this for other people. I want to be that motivation for the next person.

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