No matter how it plays out, this is going to be an interesting season for Kobe Bryant. He’s fully cleared for all basketball activities ahead of camp, but Lakers coach Byron Scott says there will be a cap on his minutes. Some people, including Jerry West, say that although it would seem to make sense that this would be his last year, Bryant might not be done yet. Add Kobe’s most high-profile teammate-turned-enemy-turned-friend, Shaquille O’Neal, to that list.
But O’Neal encourages Bryant to continue playing beyond this season if he desires so. Bryant will be in the final year of his contract in which he will earn a league-high $25 million this upcoming season. He won’t make a decision to return or retire until after this season.
”If you still got something, you should go because once it’s done you can’t get it back,” O’Neal said. ”If I hadn’t got hurt I would have went on and played my last season to try and break Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record.
”But it’s different for a guard because they got control –‘I’m going to shoot this time. For big guys, it is kind of hard. You’ve got to labor down.”
It’s a nice thought. In an ideal world, one of the greatest players of all time would still be healthy and going strong. But despite what O’Neal and others think, it’s probably pretty unlikely that Bryant plays beyond this season. He’s 37 and has had season-ending injuries the last three seasons. With that said, Bryant may still feel he has something left, and Shaq saying something like this certainly doesn’t discourage that. But we’ll see how this season goes first.