Love him or hate him, you’re going to miss something about Kobe Bryant once he retires, whenever that may be.
Me? I’ll miss not only his late-career candor, but his uncanny willingness to address rumors head on, be it through the press or social media.
Quintessential example incoming.
Speaking on SiriusXM NBA Radio Friday, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak indicated that Kobe had told him next season will be his last in purple and gold. ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes detailed his words:
“He has indicated to me that this is it,” Kupchak said Thursday in a radio appearance with SiriusXM NBA Radio. …
“I think first and foremost, he’s on the last year of a deal,” Kupchak told SiriusXM NBA Radio. “There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don’t think there will be.” …
A year from now, if there’s something different to discuss, then it will be discussed then,” Kupchak said of Bryant potentially playing beyond next season. “I talk to him from time to time … and he is recovering. He’s running. He’s getting movement and strength in the shoulder. We expect a full recovery, but yeah, he’s much closer to the end than to the beginning.”
Naturally, because this is Kobe we’re talking about, social media was all aflutter, positing that No. 24 could perhaps end up in a different uniform. After all, this seemed to signify an end to his Lakers tenure, not necessarily his career entirely.
Leave it to Kobe, though, to bring the clarity:
My thoughts on next season being my last season are the same as the last time the media asked me last season #nadanew
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 22, 2015
Okay, clarity is putting it strongly. Kobe has said a lot of things about the end of his current contract, which will expire after 2015-16. And that’s because people keep asking.
And his answers over the years have kept changing.
Back in November 2012, he talked about playing until he was 40. In November 2014, he couldn’t envision playing beyond his current contract.
Then, in January of this year, he entertained the idea of retiring this summer.
Point blank: Kobe doesn’t know what he’ll do just yet. He has appeared in just 41 games over the last two seasons and isn’t one to go out like that. But he’s also not one to voluntarily damage his legacy. This is something he’ll make a decision on toward the end of next year, likely after considering the season he just had, as well as the Lakers’ landscape and any other options that may be on the table.
For now, it’s fair to assume he’ll retire after next season. The Lakers aren’t on the brink of title contention, so unless he leaves, he’ll spend the rest of his days playing for what he considers nothing.
Under no circumstance should we start talking about the idea of him actually suiting up elsewhere, though. That’s never once been on the table over the last six years or so. If it’s a possibility, it’s one that’ll arise quite suddenly next summer when he becomes a free agent.
Until then, expect the 2015-16 crusade to be Bryant’s last. Or, at the very least, don’t try overthinking a situation that Kobe himself probably hasn’t definitely mapped out just yet.