Whether you like Kobe Bryant or are not a fan, you cannot be looking forward to two years from now, when he says he might retire. The NBA would go on without Bryant, but it would be missing one of its most dynamic and celebrated players in history.
At 33, Bryant told Yahoo Sports! that he just might stick to his predication he made as a rookie to step away from the game at 35. It would so happen that he has two years remaining on a $58-million contract, leaving speculation that he could walk away from the game that he has mastered as well as anyone not named Michael Jordan.
“It’s still probably accurate,” Bryant said about his notion of retiring from 16 years ago. “That’s a long time to be playing. It’ll be the last year of my contract. I don’t know if I will play any longer than that. I don’t know. It’s just a possibility. It’s not something I even give it much thought to, but it’s a possibility. It could happen.”
The factors on his decision were not made evident by Bryant. But he said after next season he will have a clearer indication of his mind and, significantly, his body that has logged so many tough minutes over his luminous career.
“At the end of that year, probably, I think you’ll know. I’m not sure,” Bryant said. “I think you’ve seen so many players retire, think they know and then come back. I don’t want to be one of those guys, but I know they’ve all said it too. It must be tougher than it sounds to be able to retire and know when that moment is actually there. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, I guess.”
He has reason to not ponder it much right now. The Lakers made a move to acquire one of the all-time great point guards in Steve Nash, the kind of ball-distributor and floor leader Bryant never played alongside. Nash’s additions renews hopes the Los Angeles as a championship-caliber club, which, at this in his career, is all Bryant plays for. Five championships are not enough for him.
To extend his career, Bryant has taken dramatic, even radical steps. Last summer in Germany, he received an innovative procedure on his surgically repaired right knee and left ankle that altered his health for the better. All last season, he played with a sore shin and torn ligament in his right wrist, finishing second in the league in scoring average. But his 43% mark from the field was his worst shooting percentage since his second NBA season.
Bryant also plans to have another innovative procedure on his knee after finishing the 2012 London Olympics, which run from July 29 to Aug. 12.
No matter how he feels physically, Bryant has said he will not play until he’s a shell of himself. In the end, what he has accomplished is Hall of Fame worthy — and even worthy of being compared to Jordan to his diehard fans.
“I would love for people to look at my career and say I maximized everything I possibly could,” Bryant said. “Every ounce of talent I had, I got the most out of it. If people say that about me, I’ll be very happy.”