Kobe Bryant’s contract expires following the 2015-2016 season. He’s almost 37-years-old, coming off consecutive injury-riddled campaigns, and is the last vestige from the title-winning Los Angeles Lakers teams of the late 2000s. GM Mitch Kupchack recently said that Bryant told him next season would be his last, too.
Despite all indications and basic common sense suggesting he’s made up his mind, though, the future Hall-of-Famer won’t publicly commit to a timeline for retirement. Here’s Bryant on the matter in a sprawling Q&A with Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports:
“We haven’t set anything in stone and I’ve talked about it before. But could this be the last [season]? Absolutely. It’s tough to decide. It’s really tough to make those types of decisions. Players I have spoken to say, ‘Kobe you will know.’
“I’m making this very simple. Either I like playing the game and going through this process or I don’t. I try to strip it down to the simplest form. Either I like playing some more or I don’t. But I think that decision needs to be made after the season. It’s hard to make a decision like that before the season.”
It’s not uncommon for old-timers to confirm retirement before their final seasons. But Bryant is cut from a different cloth than the vast majority of players. Can you really imagine him going on a “farewell tour” of sorts next season? The very idea clashes with the relentless and maniacal competitiveness that’s helped make him an all-time great.
The five-time champion shoots down that prospect to Spears, insisting he really hasn’t made a decision on his future beyond this season. Rest assured that Bryant is still leaning one way or another internally at the very least, though, and retirement seems the most likely side.
Ultimately, only time will tell when it comes to his playing longevity. But just to be safe, we highly recommend watching as much of Kobe as you can next season. Whether he’s gone after 2015-2016 or not, time to marvel at his iconic presence is definitely, definitely fleeting.
[Via Yahoo Sports]