When basketball is actually being played, Kobe’s retirement plans remain a hot debate, but there’s also other things to talk about. Like how many shots he took the night before. How many points he scored. What color his shoes were. Pau Gasol’s hair. I could go on.
Over the summer, however, there isn’t much else to focus on, especially now that he’s recovering from a ruptured Achilles. I find myself writing about the Lakers one, two and sometimes three times a day because of all the news floating around Kobe. That’s just how it is.
In the latest batch of Kobe conjecture, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak asserts the Black Mamba could still be a member of the team in three or more years. Speaking with Mark Willard of ESPNLA 710, he admitted he could see Kobe playing well beyond next season.
“If he can play at a high level, I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be,” Kupchak said.
Heavy stuff. I’m one of the biggest Kobe advocates out there and even I have trouble believing he can last another three-plus years. Three more seasons, maybe. But beyond that? I’m hesitant to make any predictions for fear of being too audacious or naive, or both.
Three years from now, Kobe will be approaching his 38th birthday. In NBA years, that’s about 380. He’d be entering his 21st season and players like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Josh Smith that recently signed long-term contracts would be approaching free agency. Again. Think about that.
For Kobe to last another four or more years, his body would have to be mighty kind to him. Until last season, it had been. That’s the impression we’re under. Kobe has never missed 20 games in a single season, so he’s either been able to stay healthy or his threshold for pain is freakishly high. I don’t doubt the latter qualifies even a little bit.
Personally, I always thought hitting the 20-year plateau and calling it quits was the route Kobe would take. If he’s on the verge of surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring list, then maybe he extends his career a little further. That of course depends on how healthy/well he plays these next three seasons, if he even lasts that long.
Admittedly, his ability to continue playing at a high level isn’t my main concern. So long as he’s healthy, his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts suggest he’ll continue to put in the work necessary to remain at the top of his game. Remaining healthy is the issue at hand.
Broken-record style, he’s been omnipresent for the last 17 years, but maybe that’s part of the problem. Any past injuries he’s played through combined with the number of minutes he’s logged could adversely affect his health at some point.
Or I could be underestimating Kobe and the powers at be he sometimes appears to have on the payroll. Maybe he can play past 20 years. Hell, maybe he can go for 25 as long as we’re discussing it.
Until those shots stop falling, Kobe will keep playing. And for however long he keeps playing without becoming an on-court detriment, it seems he can rest easy knowing has a home in Lakerland.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.