This much we know: Kobe Bryant will suit up and play Friday night when the Lakers face the Toronto Raptors. The team confirmed this at their morning shootaround.
But thinking past today with Kobe is not wise — he’s trying to enjoy this season and live in the moment. Because unless something changes, this will be his final season.
That includes the occasionally floated idea of Bryant playing a season in Italy or China after walking away from the NBA, a chance to spread his brand overseas. Kobe told Marc Stein of ESPN not to expect an overseas encore.
What does seem clear, though, is that the oft-floated idea of Kobe playing in, say, Italy for a season after leaving the NBA is not in his thinking at the moment. In a brief chat after his recent Dallas visit, Bryant told me that, at this point, he doesn’t have plans to play abroad when he finally sheds the purple and gold, be it after this season or beyond.
While Nike might love the idea of a season overseas, and it might be good for his brand, it is not good for Kobe. Probably not his body. More importantly, for a person incredibly dedicated to his family and his young daughters, the idea of either being away from them for a full season, or uprooting the family for a year, are unappealing.
If you’re a fan of the game of basketball, you should try to savor the good moments with Bryant this season, celebrate one of the all-time great careers, and then applaud him as he walks out the door. My most fervent hope is at the end of the season he can still walk out that door and leave on his own terms.