Kobe Bryant on if he returns next season: “Yeah, that’s the plan”

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Kobe Bryant, arm in a sling and looking a little groggy — that happens when you’re medicated the day after your surgery — came to Staples Center Thursday night to see his friend Pau Gasol. The two shared a nice moment before the game.

But of course, Kobe can’t casually stroll through Staples Center without getting noticed by the media, and he was asked by ESPN if he planned to return next season.

“Yeah, that’s the plan,” he said.

Did anyone really expect anything else? Did anyone who has watched Kobe over the past 19 years think he was going to let an injury dictate the terms on which he would leave the game? Of course he’s coming back, and the Laker GM said as much earlier in the day.

Then the reporter threw an odd question at Kobe — would the opinion of some media talking heads that he should retire influence his decision?

“I don’t really listen much to what people have to say, to be honest with you,” Bryant said.

That was a classy answer, considering what likely ran through Kobe’s head. Any professional athlete or organization that considers what sports pundits will think as part of their decision making process is doing it wrong. Kobe, maybe least of all, is not concerned with what the outside world thinks of him.

At some point in the coming month or so, Kobe likely will expound upon his decision, probably when he’s a little more clear headed and in less pain. But the answer isn’t changing.