While the Lakers are focusing on recapturing sole possession of the eighth and final seed in the West, Lakers fans are being reminded of that closing window on Kobe Bryant’s playing career. Bryant has been spectacular this year, and has turned back the clock so many times that it’s hard to keep count (ask Josh Smith or basically the entire Brooklyn Nets or Toronto Raptors teams).
Averaging 27.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists on 46.4 percent shooting, fans often have to remind themselves that Kobe is indeed playing in his 17th season, and has racked up a crazy amount of basketball mileage. Yes, he has seen several what should be classified as major injuries, but Kobe, being Kobe, seems to find a way to play through.
However, doing so is naturally taking its toll on Kobe’s body. In fact, that will be the deciding factor when he decides to hang it up. Kobe has dropped hints here and there about his retirement approaching, but we now know when he will decide when that day will be.
After the Lakers’ win in Sacramento on Saturday, Kobe told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com that he will “in all likelihood” make a decision of whether to play beyond next season or not during the summer. He added:
“I’ll talk to my family and stuff and really see if I want to continue to sacrifice as much as I’m sacrificing right now. I’m putting my body through a lot to just try to get ready to play every single night. To do what I’m doing right now, it’s not easy. I’ll tell you, it’s taken a lot of commitment.”
Is your sense that next season will be your last?
“As I sit here right now, yeah.”
Is there anything the Lakers can say that would make it more likely you played beyond next season?
“No,” Bryant told NBA.com. “It’s my decision. It’s really about what I want to do, if I want to train and be psychotic with my training. That’s what it comes down to. It’s really how I’m feeling physically.”
Besides the obvious physicality issues, Kobe wants to provide the Lakers clarity of his plans so they can plan for the future regarding contracts and personnel decisions. If Kobe chooses to play beyond next season, the Lakers would in all probability offer Bryant an extension.
If Bryant does walk away from the game following the 2013-14 season he will coast into the Hall of Fame five years later. Bryant, who just last night passed Wilt Chamberlain for fourth on the all-time scoring list, will likely still be able to pass Michael Jordan, finishing behind just Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the list.
Bryant and the Lakers will be back in action Tuesday when they face the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center.
In case you missed it, be sure to check out Kobe in our dunk of the week!
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