Kobe Bryant: What the NBA Superstar's Retirement Talk Signals

Nikhil BaradwajSenior Analyst IJuly 16, 2012

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 12:  Kobe Bryant #10 of the US Men's Senior National Team dribbles the ball during a pre-Olympic exhibition game against the Dominican Republic at Thomas & Mack Center on July 12, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The United State won the game 113-59.  (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
David Becker/Getty Images

While he will be 34 in August, Kobe Bryant is still a top five player in the NBA.

What makes Bryant so great is that he was able to adjust his game when his athleticism and physical gifts began to deteriorate, allowing him to continue to be an effective player.

With that being said, Lakers fans around the world were probably shocked when Bryant said that he might retire after his current contract expires (via Yahoo Sports). 

By the time his contract is up, Bryant will be 35 years old and would have been in the NBA for 18 seasons. Adding into consideration that he has notched the second most playoff minutes of all time and it is remarkable that Bryant's body has held up like it has.

However, while he does call it a "possibility" that he retires after this contract, it feels like the "Black Mamba" is sending a message to management (via Yahoo Sports).

Quite frankly, it might be this:

Acquire Dwight Howard.

The Lakers have an aging and old core that needs to win now.

Not trading Andrew Bynum would keep the Lakers relevant, likely putting them in the same title discussion as the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.

However, bringing in D-12 closes the deal for LA.

While a championship is never a given, it is definitely more likely with Howard on board. A big man duo of Gasol and Howard would be the best in the league, and with Steve Nash running the point, LA might have themselves the perfect team to beat the defending champions.

Add in Bryant and this team is scary.

Do I buy that Bryant is considering retiring after his current contract? Sure I do, simply because of the sheer amount of minutes he has been on the court.

However, I think it is more likely that Kobe does not retire in 2014, especially since his abilities likely would not have waned too much.

In any case, Bryant's proclamation might have been one of the best ways to let Mitch Kupchak know that it is time to step up and earn your stripes.

The question is whether Kupchak can help construct a deal that brings Howard to LA. Otherwise, he runs the risk that he might lose his superstar to retirement.