NBA Rumors: Kobe Bryant Hints at Early Retirement

Yesterday the L.A. Times ran a piece by veteran sportswriter T.J. Simers detailing a sit-down interview he had with Kobe Bryant at a Minnesota Starbucks.

The interview touches on several topics, from Kobe’s relationship with Dwight Howard (“I’ve been through much worse. Shaq and I honestly didn’t like each other. At least Dwight and I do like each other.”) to his recent entrance into the world of Twitter (“I’ve taken the reins off now. I’m more open, hence Twitter. I’m at peace.”).

Maybe the most interesting thing though was something that Simers glosses over: Kobe talking about early retirement.

Talking about his sometimes-rocky relationship with Kobe, the article gives us this:

There was a time when we would talk regularly and with great respect. And there was a time when we would not, replaced later by a lot of growling and confrontation.

The shift continues, the Lakers at their worst but Kobe at his best. And so what’s wrong with him? I begin.

“I find myself talking sometimes and I can’t believe what I just said,” he says with a hearty laugh. “Realistically I have only one year left, so I’m trying to enjoy myself.”

Realistically Kobe only has “one year left” in him? This is kind of a big thing, no? Especially for a guy who is still not only one of the best players in the game, but also one of the toughest, best-conditioned athletes in the world? A year from now, it’s hard to imagine his play dropping off so significantly that Bryant would be ready to hang ’em up. Not a chance.

Now, maybe if he had to go through the rest of this season and next logging close to 40 minutes a game while also having to carry the majority of the offensive burden, realistic parameters of human physicality could catch up to him and slow him down to where he wasn’t himself. But wouldn’t his new role as “Kobe the Facilitator” (granted, a new phenomenon) and a healthy Dwight Howard (assuming he’s healthy and they re-sign him) conceivably add years to his career? On paper, this scenario is not that far-fetched at all.

That comment from Bryant though tells me that he doesn’t see things headed down that path. Maybe, no matter what he says to the contrary in public, he doesn’t really think the team can keep Howard, signaling a slide into the abyss of mediocrity that he wants no parts of. Or, maybe he just doesn’t think he can keep up his current role as a distributor. Or maybe Kobe doesn’t want to.

Read the full article HERE.

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