Kobe Bryant implies he won’t ever leave Lakers

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Kobe Bryant says he still doesn’t know whether he’ll retire after this season.

If he doesn’t, Knicks president Phil Jackson (who coached Kobe) and Bleacher Report writer Kevin Ding (who covered Kobe) believe he might leave the Lakers in free agency.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

Kobe Bryant has a message for Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers fans and anyone else who thinks he will finish his NBA career elsewhere.

“A lot of players want to go to different teams or contend to win championships,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports at the conclusion of the Lakers’ media day on Monday. “I’m a Laker, man. I’m a Laker for better or worse.”

“I’m a Laker, man. How many times do I have to say that?” Bryant said “Dude, I bleed purple and gold.”

This isn’t the first time Kobe has pledged his undying loyalty to the Lakers. That matters.

So does Lakers owner Jim Buss saying Kobe must accept a reduced role to return in 2016-17 (and presumably a commensurately lower salary).

One of two things will happen this season:

1. Kobe will be healthy and productive.

2. Kobe won’t be healthy and productive.

If it’s No. 2, Kobe will probably retire.

If it’s No. 1 – and Kobe wants to keep playing, which is no given – he might not be willing to accept Buss’s terms. In that case, either Kobe or Buss will cave – or Kobe will sign elsewhere. Something has to give.

I believe Kobe wants to finish his career with the Lakers. I’m not entirely convinced that, if he plays beyond this season, he’ll stay in Los Angeles.