In case anyone wasn’t listening the first time, Kobe Bryant emphasized it’s unlikely he’ll retire after his contact expires next year. Possibly even more.
“I feel pretty damn confident I can be at a high level for at least another three years,” said Bryant in a recent interview with Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell. “I think the [Achilles] injury has something to do with it. It really increased the drive.”
As if that was possible.
Bryant had strongly suggested last season that he’d either retire after his $30.5 million contract expires through the 2013-14 season, or possibly one more year. He also planned to reveal his intentions to the front office this offseason so they could prepare for whenever Bryant retires.
But the plan went off script after Bryant suffered a season-ending torn left Achilles April 12 against the Golden State Warriors. It appears he’s fueled to prove he can still return to play at an elite level. Bryant’s still eyeing the chance either to tie Michael Jordan in NBA championships (six) or eclipse him altogether. It also didn’t help that the San Antonio Spurs, led by one of his contemporaries in Tim Duncan, came close this year matching Bryant’s ring total against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
“San Antonio getting so close to winning No. 5 probably hurt me a little bit too,” he said. “I want to make sure I push the ring count out a little further. It was really, really close there.”
The Lakers, including Bryant, plan to meet with Dwight Howard on Tuesday in hopes to convince him to stay. But will Bryant’s intent to prolong his future with the Lakers actually hurt Howard’s chances of returning? The two remained at odds last year over their roles. And it’s clear Howard would like to have a larger leadership role.
It remains to be seen if Bryant and Howard can find common ground. But Bryant said he kept a watchful eye on how San Antonio made things work.
“It’s a testament to what skill can do. To what us old guys can do if you play together, if you play with one mind and one purpose, you can accomplish great things,” Bryant said. “It was inspiration for me and hopefully inspirational for the city of Los Angeles and this organization of what we can do, how the tide can change fairly quickly and we’ll be looking at a parade.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org