Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant can see the end of his spectacular career, and it is not far off. At 34, he has prepared as intensely as a soldier, year in and year out, and while he has had some super-human exploits on the court, there comes a time to shut it down.
He signed a three-year contract extension for close to $90 million that runs through the 2013-14 season. If you listen to Bryant, that would be it for the player many categorize as the “closest thing to Michael Jordan.”
“It’s just that three more years seems like a really long time to continue to stay at a high, high level of training and preparation and health,” Bryant said. “That’s a lot of years. For a guard? That’s a lot of years.”
Health has been one of Bryant’s biggest obstacles over the last couple of seasons. During the summer of 2011 he traveled to Germany to have a radical procedure performed on his left knee, which was apparently worked because he averaged nearly 39 minutes and 27.9 points a game.
Still, Bryant concedes that mentally he has to embrace playing beyond next season.
“It’s not about health necessarily,” he said. “It’s about ‘Do I want to do it? Do I have that hunger to continue to prepare at a high level?”
Bryant’s hunger to prepare at such a high level has led him to five NBA championships, 14 All-Star appearances, eight times NBA All Defensive First Team and two Olympic gold medals.
He is fifth on all-time scoring list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. Bryant currently has 29,484 points going into the 2012-13 season, needing 516 points to reach the 30,000 points mark. In order to tie Chamberlian, Bryant needs to average 23.6 points a game during the regular season to tie Chamberlain.
Above all, Bryant plays for championships, and this newly constructed Lakers team with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash has him excited – and believing in the organization.
There does not seem to be any doubt is Bryant’s mind that in the next two seasons will be his last, although he has been careful to not say it definitively. But there is one thing that Bryant is certain about though: He would not consider hanging on for a couple more years just to be a role player.
“That’s not gonna happen,” he said. “That’s just not me.”