Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's wife, took to Instagram to shut down recent speculation that her husband will return to the NBA: "Kobe will not be coming out of retirement to play again. He doesn't want to play again and frankly we really enjoy spending time together as a family without the crazy game schedule interfering with birthdays, holidays and special events."
The speculation was recently fueled by former Laker and ex-LeBron James teammate Shaquille O'Neal, who told TMZ that "Kobe's coming back":
Whether O'Neal had any inside information or just wants to see James and Bryant on the same team or was just having fun, he certainly made headlines. But before Lakers fans could get too excited, Vanessa quickly put an end to the rumors before they could gain too much steam.
Bryant, 39, retired after the 2015-16 season, his 20th season in the league. Los Angeles has won just 61 games since he hung up his sneakers and is in the midst of a five-year playoff drought. However, with James now on board, the franchise has gone from rebuilding to contending.
That apparently isn't enough to get the Mamba back on the court.
Bryant revealed on ESPN's The Jump that he was "really, really excited" to have James in purple and gold:
Basketball fans hoped for more than a decade that James and Bryant would eventually meet head-to-head in the Finals, but despite the fact that the two legends have combined to make 16 Finals appearances, they never did square off with a championship on the line. And while they played together for Team USA in the Olympics, they never did suit up in the same NBA squad—nor will they, apparently.
Also of note, Dirk Nowitzki is set to play in his 21st season with the Dallas Mavericks, the most with a single team in NBA history. He and Bryant previously shared the record at 20 years. Any comeback could, of course, help the Mamba match Nowitzki.