DJ Mbenga felt sorry for former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant after the superstar guard went down with a torn Achilles tendon and is now done for the rest of the NBA season.
The 7-foot Barako Bull import admitted maintaining close contact with the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer even though he’s no longer with the Lakers franchise since the 2010-11 season.
“I know how much he (Bryant) likes to win. I know he wants to come back, but that (injury) hurt him a lot more than anything though he’ll try to find a solution to it,” Mbenga said moments after helping Barako Bull end its campaign in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on a winning note by downing Globalport, 96-87, Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I know he’s hurting so bad but he’s gonna catch up next year. And I will be on his side to help,” he added.
Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in the Lakers’ 118-116 come-from-behind win over the Golden State Warriors Friday, and immediately had surgery the following day that will keep him sidelined for six to nine months.
Mbenga said he still got to talk to 17-year NBA superstar a few days before he went down with the season-ending injury.
The Congolese-Belgian big man the two of them just joked a lot and shared briefly his experience playing in the Philippines considering that Bryant has visited Manila three times.
Mbenga was a back-up center to the Lakers' back-to-back NBA championship teams in 2009 and 2010.
Following the ouster of the Energy Cola in the playoffs, Mbenga said he plans to stay until Wednesday and just tour the city before flying back to Dallas, Texas where he currently resides.
From there, the 32-year-old big man said he will try to whip himself back into game shape with the hope of playing in the NBA again.