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Kobe Denies Retirement Rumors
Friday, May 22
Bryant took to Twitter to deny reports that next season would be his last. "My thoughts on next season being my last season are the same as the last time the media asked me last season #nadanew," Bryant said.
Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com passed along comments Friday made by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak during an appearance Thursday on SiriusXM NBA Radio. As it stands now, it appears the 17-time All-Star is prepared to move on.
"He has indicated to me that this is it," Kupchak said.
What isn't clear is whether that means Bryant, who will be 37 when the 2015-16 season starts, is heading into retirement or will consider other possibilities as a free agent next summer. The ESPN report notes there's been talk of Bryant playing beyond next season despite his recent injury woes:
"Bryant is scheduled to make a league-high $25 million in his final contract season -- his 20th -- with the Lakers. But there's speculation that Bryant could play beyond next season, and Bryant said he hasn't ruled out that possibility."
Kupchak stated on SiriusXM NBA Radio he didn't think there would be any further talk about a new contract with the Lakers: "I think first and foremost, he's on the last year of a deal. There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don't think there will be."
Bryant is one of the most ferocious competitors in the NBA. His body has started to fail him, however, as he played in just 41 combined games over the past two seasons. A lot of that is probably the cumulative toll of all of the minutes he's logged throughout his career.
It would be weird seeing him in another uniform. At the same time, it would be unfortunate for his Hall of Fame career to end on a low note given all of the highs he's enjoyed. Perhaps he could join a contender and chase a championship.
Ultimately, it sounds like Bryant will be forced to make a decision about his future at some point next season. The Lakers appear ready to move forward with a new core, which will include the No. 2 overall pick in this summer's draft.
Bryant and the team have enjoyed a successful run together, highlighted by five titles, but unless there's a change of heart, the end is seemingly on the horizon.