"I thought about sprinting [and] getting back," the Los Angeles Lakers star said. "And I couldn't go."
His 37-year-old body, which has endured nearly 20 NBA seasons, refused to cooperate. Bryant, who is retiring this summer, then went to Lakers coach Byron Scott.
"Coach, I just can't move right now," Bryant told Scott.
"OK," Scott replied. "We'll shut it down for the night."
Bryant exited the game -- ultimately a 102-100 overtime win for the Lakers -- after having played about nine minutes. He shot 1-of-7 from the field and scored two points.
I'm not sure if Kobe went 9 minutes or 9 rounds tonight. pic.twitter.com/271zIFSGa1— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) March 31, 2016
The crowd chanted for him to return, but he remained glued to the bench, where his right shoulder and knees were wrapped in heat packs to loosen up his muscles and joints and "try to get them firing," Bryant said, "but there was no hope tonight."
Seven games remain in Bryant's historic career, but it takes a lot to keep Bryant's body going at this age, as ESPN The Magazine detailed in its February issue. Read about the daily reanimation of Kobe Bryant.