NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Straight From the Mamba: Next Season Will Be Kobe Bryant’s Last

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

 Kobe Bryant is fighting for his team’s life this season, trying to assure a spot in the NBA Playoffs. Regardless of the outcome of this year, Bryant said recently in an interview with that he plans to retire from professional basketball in 2014.

Making it clear that he would decide on his future this summer, Bryant assured that there is absolutely nothing that anyone, including the Los Angeles Lakers, can say to influence his final decision.

“Is your sense that next season will be your last?” asked.

“As I sit here right now, yeah.” Bryant responded.

“Is there anything the Lakers can say that would make it more likely you played beyond next season?”

“No,” Bryant reassured “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.”

Bryant went on to say that he has put his body through a lot more than the public would be able to understand. He said that it has taken a lot of sacrifice and commitment to do what he has done this season, and it has taken a huge toll on him physically.

A few days ago, Bryant had been seen walking out of the locker room on a crutch as a result of a bone spur in his foot suffered against the Milwaukee Bucks. On Friday, Bryant was listed as probable for the Lakers’ game at the Sacramento Kings. He proceeded to play nearly the entire game, all except the final 23 seconds of the third quarter.

Coach Mike D’Antoni was asked about Bryant’s valiant effort against the Kings and he reiterated that it was pure heart that kept him in the game. D’Antoni added, “Hey, he’s earned the right. Nobody can tell what he has inside of him. And he has a lot.”

Talking to his family will be his biggest factor in ultimately solidifying his decision. If his physical status this season has told us anything, it’s that Bryant could truly be near the end of his career.

Bryant has given the game everything he has throughout his 17 years in the league. From winning league MVP, to winning five titles, to countless All-Star appearances, he has achieved everything an NBA player could dream of achieving. If next year truly is his last, it will be curious to see whether the Lakers front office can appease him in finding the perfect team to surround him with for one last shot at a sixth NBA championship.

Ryan Heckman is a Minnesota Timberwolves writer and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google