The 2015-16 NBA season is looking more and more likely to be Kobe Bryant’s last in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar hasn’t officially said he’ll retire after the upcoming season, but all indications point to that being the case for the five-time NBA champion.
On Thursday, another hint was dropped about Kobe’s future. Jerry Colangelo, chairman of USA Basketball, claims to have had a discussion with Bryant about potentially playing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio for Team USA.
Apparently, Kobe is open to the prospect of suiting up for Team USA once again in an attempt to end his basketball career on a high note with another gold medal. Colangelo said the following about Bryant via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“And so, he also mentioned to me in a private conversation that if he had his druthers, he would love to ride off into the sunset playing one more time and winning the gold medal. And that would be the end. But he was very quick to say, ‘But, I don’t want a spot. I need to earn the spot. I need to be capable of playing at that level to be considered.’ And I said, ‘You got that. That’s always there for you, Kobe.'”
A lot of factors will play into Kobe’s potential last ride with the Los Angeles Lakers and Team USA. The only way Bryant’s plan will come to fruition is if he’s able to stay relatively healthy over the course of another 82-game NBA. That may be a stretch at 37 coming off multiple season-ending injuries.
Even if Bryant is healthy once his 20th NBA season is officially in the books, there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to secure a roster spot. Although Kobe doesn’t want anything handed to him as Colangelo alluded to, it will be no easy task to prove he’s a better option then the younger stars he’ll be competing with.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all comes together next summer and whether Bryant will have something left in the tank to play on the international stage one last time. It still isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that Bryant extends his NBA career beyond next season, but it does seem fitting he’d seriously consider walking away from the game entirely with another gold medal in hand.[divide]