Kobe Bryant says he’s not sure if he retires at end of season

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It’s never easy for great players to leave the game.

Kobe Bryant is not going to let injuries force his decision. He battled back from a torn Achilles and a knee surgery — when most players would have walked away — to be ready for next season. He is going to leave the game on his terms, nobody else’s.

But do his terms come up at the end of this season?

He doesn’t know yet. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has hinted it will be Kobe’s last season (it would help the Laker rebuilding efforts in some ways). However, Kobe once again said he will see how he feels and make a call at the end of the season, this time telling it to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

“We haven’t set anything in stone and I’ve talked about it before. But could this be the last [season]? Absolutely. It’s tough to decide. It’s really tough to make those types of decisions. Players I have spoken to say, ‘Kobe you will know.’

“I’m making this very simple. Either I like playing the game and going through this process or I don’t. I try to strip it down to the simplest form. Either I like playing some more or I don’t. But I think that decision needs to be made after the season. It’s hard to make a decision like that before the season.”

Kobe doesn’t want a farewell tour with teams giving him rocking chairs and polite applause from the fans in Portland. He wants to go down swinging. We expect nothing less.

But it really comes down to this: Next May or June, when it’s time for Kobe to get back in the gym and go through all it takes to get his body ready for another marathon of an NBA season, will he want to do that or just head over to In-n-Out with his daughters? That’s when he’ll know. Before then, everything is speculation.