Kobe Bryant’s two-year, $48 million contract expires after the 2015-2016 season, and most have assumed that the Los Angeles Lakers legend will retire thereafter. But don’t get depressed too quickly, Kobe Nation – your hero might be longer for the NBA than anyone’s anticipating. At Lakers media day yesterday, Bryant refused to offer a timeline for the remainder of his career, insisting that he doesn’t “see an end to the tunnel” of his playing capabilities.
A typically introspective, confident Bryant made it clear that like his foremost predecessor, Kobe would leave the NBA on his terms.
“Whether I do or not, we’ll have to see that two years from now,” Bryant said. “I don’t know, but I could [play longer]. Physically, I don’t see an end to the tunnel…”
“[Michael Jordan] still left on his terms because he wanted to leave,” Bryant said. “If he wanted to continue to play the game, he’d continue to play the game even if it’s not at the level that we are all accustomed to. You want to play, you play. You don’t want to play, you walk away. But at least it’s not because of a devastating injury.
“For me, it’s the same thing. When I leave, it’s because I choose to.”
Classic Bryant. Of course he won’t leave basketball due to anything beyond his control; Kobe’s will and drive wouldn’t allow anything less.
As he states, though, the question will become how comfortable he is playing a role to which he’s unaccustomed when the time comes. Bryant has been a ball-dominant alpha dog his entire career, but his ability to be an effective one will some day erode. We’re of the opinion that precipitous decline will begin this season, leading Kobe to ponder whether or not he could play a part-time or role going forward.
And as Bryant seems to suggest, that’s an NBA life for which he seems ill-suited. That isn’t a bad thing, either; some players aren’t wired – physically or mentally – to be anything more than their peak selves or something close to it. Can you imagine Bryant fading into the NBA haze a la Kevin Garnett? We can’t, either.
So if Kobe can defy odds and remain an elite player or something close to it in 2015-2016, perhaps he really will continue playing. Given his age, injuries, and already deteriorating play, though, that optimism seems unlikely to take hold.
What do you think?
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