Because Kobe Bryant poured everything he had into playing 20 years for the Los Angeles Lakers, many questioned how he would handle retirement. There was a widely held belief that the five-time champion would face the same struggle other former athletes did.
After all, both Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, two of Bryant’s favorite athletes and idols, came out of retirement; with Jordan doing so twice. However, Bryant thus far has been unwavering in his stance of never playing again.
So much so that he isn’t even interested in holding an official title in the Lakers front office. Nonetheless, there’s been multiple instances of speculation Bryant would come out of retirement.
The latest of which suggested it would be to play alongside LeBron James, and that was followed by a report Bryant was planning to play in Ice Cube’s BIG3 League next season.
But during an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show,” the newly-turned 40-year-old restated he firmly is retired:
“There’s about a zero percent chance that I come back and play. … Nothing. Done. That’s it.”
Bryant then went on to explain he hasn’t had thoughts of returning, in large part because he’s driven to prove critics wrong about whether or not he could cope with a post-playing career life:
“Never. Here’s the thing, for us athletes, it’s really hard to transition from that. I was really personal about it when I wrote “Dear Basketball.” That is the true challenge, of finding what comes next. Finding something you love to do every bit as much as you love your first passion. That is a challenge for us. I think unfortunately for us athletes, we’ve been pigeonholed into thinking that we can only be one thing. So when I retired, everybody said, ‘OK, he’s too competitive. He’s not going to know what to do with himself. He’s going to have to come back.’ I took that as a personal challenge of them thinking I’m this one-dimensional person. That all I know is how to dribble a ball, shoot the ball and play basketball and compete at that level. So I took it as a personal challenge. I will never come back to the game. Ever. I’m here to show people we can do much more than that. Creating this business, winning an Oscar, winning an Emmy, and an Annie, those are things that are showing athletes that come after, ‘No, no. There’s more to this thing.’ So I would never (return). It’s not even a thought.”
On top of finding other career paths he’s passionate in, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Bryant has been wildly successful off the court. His “Dear Basketball” won an Oscar Award for best animated short, a sports Emmy, and Annie Award.
Furthermore, a $6 million investment Bryant made in BodyArmor increased to $200 million in value this month.