Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman doesn't think Kobe Bryant should retire after the 2015-16 season, as he told Baxter Holmes of ESPN:
Bryant, 37, is averaging 17.1 points, four rebounds and three assists this season. He announced in November that he would be retiring after this season.
While Wittman's comments may have been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, there is a case to be made for Bryant returning for another season, albeit a far-fetched one.
In November, Bryant told reporters he had no intention of playing elsewhere, saying: “I’m a Laker for life. I’m not playing anywhere else, no matter what. It’s just not going to happen.”
If Bryant were willing to come off of the bench for a new team and play a limited role as a spot scorer—a spot scorer who improved his shot selection and had a field-goal percentage higher than the career-worst 36.0 percent he's posted this year—it's not crazy to imagine him playing beyond this season.
After all, he leads the Lakers in scoring and is still capable of creating quality looks for himself.
But why would Bryant agree to any of the conditions outlined above? After 20 seasons, the wear and tear of the NBA continues to break down his body. It's hard to imagine Bryant wanting to wear another jersey after spending his entire career with the Lakers, and it's nearly impossible to imagine him agreeing to come off of the bench.
And it's just as impossible imagining another NBA team—or the Lakers, for that matter—allowing him to play the same leading-man role he's played this season. Bryant's retirement tour has stunted the development of 2015 first-round pick D'Angelo Russell, though the team's dreadful 15-58 record has dramatically increased the odds that the Lakers will keep their top-three protected pick in the 2016 draft.
So Bryant was able to ride off into the sunset on his own terms, and the Lakers suffered his poor defense and liberal shot selection because tanking had long-term benefits. It was the perfect end to the Bryant Era for both sides.
It's hard to imagine Bryant adding an epilogue on someone else's terms.
You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.