When Kobe Bryant was a rookie, he said he’d be retired and on a beach overseas at age 35.
Kobe is now 36.
As recently as two years ago, Kobe confirmed that retired-by-35 timeline was “still probably accurate.” Entering the 2012-13 season, Kobe wondered aloud whether three more years was too many for him.
Well, here we are entering year three since, and Kobe is still playing.
He signed a two-year contract extension that begins this season, and many thought that would take him to retirement.
But he’s not committed to that timeline.
Can he play beyond those two seasons and maybe even still be on the floor at 40?
“Whether I do or not, we’ll have to see that two years from now,” Bryant said. “I don’t know, but I could [play longer]. Physically, I don’t see an end to the tunnel.”
Michael Jordan averaged 22.9 and 20 points, respectively, in the final two seasons of his NBA career with the Washington Wizards. He also struggled some with injuries and a loss in athleticism at the end of his career before he retired at age 40. Even so, Bryant was impressed with the way Jordan departed.
“He still left on his terms because he wanted to leave,” Bryant said. “If he wanted to continue to play the game, he’d continue to play the game even if it’s not at the level that we are all accustomed to. You want to play, you play. You don’t want to play, you walk away. But at least it’s not because of a devastating injury.
“For me, it’s the same thing. When I leave, it’s because I choose to.”
Will Kobe retire in two years? I have no idea. We’ll see in two years. So much can change between now and then.
I think this is about Kobe asserting his control over the situation, no matter how real or not that control is.
Maybe Kobe will leave on his own terms, as he wants. Maybe he won’t. Another injury could end his career.
But if he’s relatively healthy, why would he play at 38?
He could still be chasing a sixth championship or the all-time scoring record. Kobe should pass Michael Jordan for third all-time in points this season, but passing Karl Malone for second – let alone Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for first – would take more than two seasons.
Plus, the prospect of life without basketball is scary. I doubt Kobe is ready to rush into that – or even set a definitive timeline for getting there.