At one point in his Los Angeles Lakers career, the question surrounding Kobe Bryant was whether he would be a Laker for the rest of his career. Following a few tumultuous seasons in which Kobe had to carry the load night in and night out, it seemed as though Bryant wanted out. Nearly every NBA fan, and certainly every Lakers fan remembers the infamous day when Bryant went on the radio and declared, “I would like to be traded, yeah. Tough as it is to come to that conclusion there’s no other alternative, you know?”
It was tough for Lakers fans to hear, and Kobe quickly backtracked on his statements, stating that he only wanted the Lakers organization to do the right thing. Well we all know how that turned out. The Lakers did do the right thing, they pulled off a trade for Pau Gasol and went on to win two of the next three NBA titles.
Fast forward to the difficult 2012-2013 NBA season, one in which the Lakers star has been bombarded with questions about his career moving forward. Bryant has stated that, in terms of keeping his body in shape to play, this has been his most difficult season ever. Although he is averaging 27.0 points per game, third in the league, Bryant is 34 years old and the wear and tear has built up exponentially on his body. Bryant is playing like he is 20 years old again, but I’d bet his body is not giving him the same sort of sign.
On Tuesday though, Bryant did address the retirement situation and had this to say: “I could play another five years. That’s not to say I will.” The quote sort of backtracks on what Bryant said when he was on the Jimmy Kimmel show a few weeks ago. While on the show, Bryant was asked about retirement and stated that the day would coming very soon.
Certainly Lakers fans would like for Bryant to stay another five years, primarily because the Lakers do not have a backup plan in place. In my opinion, in this situation, Kobe is telling the truth. I feel as though Bryant will make his best attempt at trying to win this season, and again next season. The chance at tying the six rings Michael Jordan has is within reach if the Lakers can get healthy for next season. Additionally, passing Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list has to be a target that Bryant has on his radar, another feat that he could reach next season, he’s just 787 points away from passing him.
After the 2013-2014 season, I firmly believe Bryant will announce his retirement. Upon completion of this move, I do feel that the Lakers will make a run at LeBron James, a free-agent in 2014. With the Lakers having a plethora of cap space in 2014, assuming they re-sign Dwight Howard this summer, they’d only have Howard and Steve Nash under contract heading into the summer of 2014.
James moving on would be the smart thing to do, and as Bill Reiter said in his exceptional article on Fox Sports, an opportunity to play in Los Angeles, wearing the NBA’s infamous purple and gold, could give LeBron the chance to end his career as he has always wanted; known as the greatest NBA player of all time.
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