Kobe Bryant isn’t going to let injuries determine when his career ends — he wants to go out on his own terms. After playing just 41 games the past two seasons due to injury, Bryant will be back in Lakers’ purple (Forum Blue, if you prefer) and providing tough love to a young team this season. This team, this franchise is still his.
After this season, he doesn’t know.
He’s talked about retiring after this season, but he could play in the Rio Olympics in 2016, or play overseas, or maybe return for another NBA season. While the ultra-competitive Kobe has set up an interesting post-basketball life, walking away from the game is never easy.
Charles Barkley hopes he does — he wants this to be Bryant’s last season, he told Frank Isola and Brian Scalabrine on SiriusXM NBA Radio last Friday (hat tip Fox Sports).
“I hope he retires, because I don’t want to see — I probably played two years too long. I hate to see Patrick Ewing, great as he was, struggle — I don’t like seeing great players just out there, you know?” Barkley said. “Michael Jordan playing for the Wizards, that didn’t do anything for me. Kobe’s obviously not going to walk away from $30 million. This should be like a farewell tour, play 20, 25 minutes a night. The Lakers aren’t going to make the playoffs. Could he play some more? Yeah, of course. His best days are behind him. I hear these fools on TV, talking about, ‘Kobe’s going to get healthy.’ Old people don’t get healthy; they die. Old people don’t get healthy. Father Time is undefeated. … You can get in great shape in the summer, because you’re playing against air. Air doesn’t hit back.”
Kobe probably has that quote pinned on his bathroom mirror so he sees it every morning. That is his fuel.
It’s impossible to predict what Kobe will do at the end of the season because even Kobe doesn’t know. Can he stay healthy for a season? He’s keeping his options open for a reason. My guess is he leaves the game — it’s a lot of work to get his body ready for an NBA season right now, and if you’re not in the Tim Duncan space where you’re still competing for rings, is it worth the effort? But we don’t know for sure, and if he wants to come back the Buss family will pay him handsomely to do so.
Kobe would love to prove Charles Barkley wrong, and then remind him of it.