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In the 1950s and 1960s, when the Chicago Bears played at Wrigley Field, my grandfather would attend games in the cold of the Chicago winter accompanied by his trusty giant Thermos full of what he called “bullshot.” As the Bears worked themselves to yet another 13-10 win, my (as you’d expect) since-deceased grandfather would throw back cupfuls of what was essentially vodka mixed with beef broth before taking the train back home.
I don’t think this is part of Kobe Bryant’s rejuvenation regimen. Though, in a year like this, you wouldn’t blame the guy.
In a report published on Wednesday, ESPN reporter Baxter Holmes talked to Los Angeles Lakers nutritionists to further detail the team’s obsession with serving Bryant and others various meals created with the help of bone broth. “Broth,” by definition, should be created by straining the results of lengthily-simmered animal bones that were originally doused in cold water and various vegetables. To the Lakers, however, mere “broth” from a supermarket box just isn’t enough:
"You could go into a store and on the shelf you've got this carton of vegetable stock or chicken stock, and that's probably something that's been flavored with salt and chicken-flavored bouillon cubes or something like that," [Lakers head strength and conditioning coach Tim] DiFrancesco said.
"But there's no actual vitamin, mineral nutrient value in there. It just tastes good because there's enough salt in there. But when you make a bone stock the right way, it's like liquid gold. And the way you know you have real stock on your hand is if you put it in the refrigerator over night and it basically turns into Jell-O."
The broth is a base for a wide variety of soups: minestrone, beef stew, chicken meatball, chili, a 15-bean soup with kale or what Padilla said is Bryant's favorite - chicken tortilla.
(As someone who keeps his own cooked-down chicken bone broth on hand to flavor this household’s chicken tortilla soup, I can tell you that Kobe has made the sound choice, here.)
"It definitely contributes," Bryant said. "I think it's a balance of a lot of things, but I think doing the small things all together, it makes a big difference."
Bone broth, because it is delicious and savory and warming, has become a staple of some of New York’s trendier restaurants of late; mainly because a bit of salty and fatty animal soup (let’s be honest here) combined with a few scallions or some other choice of similarly-sourced protein is absolutely delicious.
To the Lakers, though, it serves as something more important:
"Everybody is looking for a magical elixir or some cure-all," said Tim DiFrancesco, the Lakers' head strength and conditioning coach, "but bone broth is where it's at."
Now, some of you might cackle at the “where it’s at”-declaration the same way we all laughed down our sleeves at Byron Scott’s semi-insinuation that the (then) 12-27 Lakers were somehow months away from being taken out of “playoff contention.” Kobe has played in only 40 NBA games since tearing his Achilles (and eventually fracturing his right leg) some 21 months ago. He may have dished a career-high 17 assists on Thursday night, but he shot 31.6 percent in 11 games prior to that. What good are these minerals and vitamins doing?
The issue here is that Kobe Bryant has been, to re-use the word, doing this since the fall of 1996.
Kobe Bryant isn’t just “old,” he’s, “I played 200 NBA games against top rank competition by the same time in his life that Michael Jordan only played 101 NCAA games”-old. He’s, “most of my first round playoff series were best-of-seven”-old. He’s, “we’re shamed into playing for Team USA during the offseason all the time”-old. He’s, “count the rings, and also count the two other Finals appearances and 220 playoff games”-old.
He’s also, “guys, I tore my Achilles and then broke my leg all within the space of nine months”-old.
For him to be still out there, after all these miles, is an achievement. Yes, he needs to shoot less. Yes, the Lakers are a laughingstock, and yes the “it takes real skill just to be able to get up those 19 shots that I missed 16 of”-nonsense is nuts. Whatever the reason, Bryant is still out there, somehow working through all this. He might not be efficient, the Lakers might be losing, but he’s still making his way onto the court.
Do you credit bone broth, as opposed to a carton (or, as most caterers work with, a massive tin can) of stock in his soup as the cure-all?
Choose your own path in this regard; just don’t throw away your bones. You shouldn’t be done with those yet.
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