Kobe Bryant knows his long and memorable NBA career will one day have to end, but he’s always given off a vibe that he is some sort of basketball robot—programmed to win and continue winning until he's run out of battery.
However, the Black Mamba recently opened up to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger, candidly speaking on plans for retirement, his last years as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and his desire to equal Michael Jordan’s six NBA Finals victories.
Going into his 17th season, it is inevitable that Bryant will be hanging up his boots in the near future, but the future Hall of Famer has always been reluctant to address that topic.
In a rare change of heart, he told Berger:
Three more years seems like a really long time to continue to stay at a high, high level of training and preparation and health. That's a lot of years. For a guard? That's a lot of years.
So what if Kobe can’t play at a high level? Plenty of veterans stick around the league well past their primes, signing with a team that they believe has the best chance to win a championship in the given year. Surely, a player of Bryant’s caliber would be welcome to do the same well into his 40s.
Even if that were true, Bryant simply won’t accept it. Berger asked him if he would stay in the NBA as a role player averaging 15 points per game or less in an attempt to win a championship before the Lakers star cut him off.
"That's not gonna happen," Bryant said. "That's just not me."
Kobe wants to be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever live, and coming off the bench or playing once his elite skills have vanished would be a sad sight to see.
He knows that Michael Jordan won all of his rings as the focal point of those Chicago Bulls teams (evidenced by his six Finals MVP awards), and the accomplishment would be diminished should Bryant sign with, say, the Miami Heat after his contract expires in 2013-14.
It seemed that Bryant would play forever, but we’re not so sure today. All signs point to his current deal being his last contract, so the 2013-14 season could be the Mamba’s last hurrah. If that is when his battery runs out, it will be out on one of the greatest and most special careers the NBA has ever seen.