Logging over 45,000 total minutes in his NBA career, 53,000 if you include the playoffs, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has a lot of tread on his tires. Currently in his 17th NBA season, Kobe has been the mark of consistency as his per game production has yet to noticeably dip this late into his career. But, with only one more year left on his current contract and already 34 years old, wondering how much longer Kobe has left is a viable concern.
Bryant made it clear awhile back that he will only play as long as he is at an elite level and his health permits it. But these comments to NBA.com make it pretty clear that as of now, the Black Mamba is done after next season.
“We’ll talk,” Bryant said after piling up 19 points, 14 assists against one turnover and nine rebounds while playing all but 23 seconds of the 103-98 victory over the Kings at Sleep Train Arena. “I’ll talk to my family and stuff and really see if I want to continue to sacrifice as much as I’m sacrificing right now. I’m putting my body through a lot to just try to get ready to play every single night. To do what I’m doing right now, it’s not easy. I’ll tell you, it’s taken a lot of commitment.”
Is your sense that next season will be your last?
“As I sit here right now, yeah.”
Is there anything the Lakers can say that would make it more likely you played beyond next season?
“No,” Bryant told NBA.com. “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.”
If there is one thing that I honestly believe that Kobe is aware of is his place in history. I think it would be foolish to think that capturing his 6th title and matching Michael Jordan is not a huge motivating factor. And to his credit, I believe that he will only stick around as long as he believes he has a shot at that title.
Even as he passed Wilt Chamberlain for fourth on the all-time scoring list, Kobe’s response when asked about the achievement should tell you everything he cares about.
“I just want No. 6, man.”