Rick Fox wouldn’t put it past Kobe Bryant to end career not with the Lakers

The prospect over losing Kobe Bryant once scared the Lakers.

He demanded a trade in 2007 and persistently criticized the front office, two feelings that eventually softened through time, the patience of the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss, the Pau Gasol acquisition and two NBA championships that shortly followed.

But with the Lakers possibly headed toward a prolonged rebuilding process, would Bryant want to leave the Lakers again? Mindful that Bryant’s two-year, $48.5 million contract ends following the 2015-16 season, former Lakers teammate Rick Fox hardly dismissed the idea he would leave the Lakers to finish out his career pursuing more NBA championships.

“I would not put it past him,” Fox said in a recent appearance with Larry King, as shown in the video above.

King then mentioned the New York Knicks, mindful that former Lakers coach Phil Jackson serves as the organization’s president. Incidentally, multiple reports state the Knicks’ head coach will be Derek Fisher, who won all five of his NBA championships with Bryant and forged a strong relationship.

“”If there is not a real opportunity for [Bryant] to win a championship there, the thought of him leaving may shock Lakers fans,” Fox said. “But I wouldn’t put it past him going in search of one or two more championships. Personally, I think it’s going to get done in New York. I really do. I just believe in Phil. I’ve been around him. I know Kobe has had his greatest success with Phil in a leadership capacity. So the reuniting of the two is not an unrealistic thought.”

Bryant has not publicly indicated such a scenario might occur. In recent years, Bryant has said he plans to finish his career solely playing for the Lakers. The Lakers would also never trade Bryant for various reasons. Though Bryant played in only six games last season amid rehabbing a left Achilles tendon and suffering a season-ending left knee injury, the Lakers have stayed optimistic he will both fully heal from those injuries and play at a prolific rate. Bryant has enhanced the Lakers’ global brand, and a trade would entail a public relations nightmare with the franchise’s fan base. Regardless of Bryant’s skillset and stature, his recent injuries and two-year, $48.5 million also could complicate the Lakers receiving maximum value on Bryant’s return.

But what about once Bryant’s contract expires?

Bryant had questioned the franchise amid the worst season in L.A. franchise history. He called on Lakers president Jeanie Buss and executive Jim Buss to improve their relationship. Bryant also scoffed at the rhetoric uttered from Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak that he would spend money conservatively this offseason in part to save up for the 2015 free agent class. Bryant has since met with key members of the Lakers’ organization and has voiced public votes of confidence surrounding the rebuilding phase.

Still, too many variables have to play out before Fox’s hypothetical scenario could materialize. One involves how quickly the Lakers rebuild. They have spent the past six weeks searching for a coach to replace Mike D’Antoni, who resigned in late April. The Lakers also only have four players under contract next season in Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall. Of course, Jackson is overseeing a Knicks franchise that missed the playoffs last season with a 37-45 record.

Nonetheless, Fox touted Bryant as superior over Miami’s LeBron James and believed the Lakers’ star would have cemented a stronger legacy had he not shattered his left Achilles in mid-April, 2013. In Fox’s mind, that would have included Bryant collecting six or seven NBA championships while surpassing former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s all-time scoring record. Instead, Bryant has five NBA titles and is ranked in fourth place on the league’s all-time list with 31,700 points. Abdul-Jabbar has a league-leading 38,387 points, while Karl Marlone (36,928 points) and Michael Jordan (32,492 points) rank second and third, respectively.

“I thought the Lakers would find a way to reload quickly, which they have historically done,” Fox said. “If [Bryant] ended up with six rings and had done all the things individually he was on track to do and played 20 years, with the longevity and consistency of play I didn’t see that matched by anyone other than Kareem. And to do it as a 2-guard was even more impressive to me and not being a big man. Where is he at now unfortunately, the injury has slid him into the top 10.”


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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  • jj

    blasphemy how dare garbage fox insinuate such nonsense

    • Desmond Powell

      as a Kobe/Lakers fan i hope he does leave…. what is he staying for

      • Dragon Ed

        After some 18 seasons in the league, Kobe is pretty much “fully depreciated” goods. I say, trade him to the Rockets for James Harding.

        • gmoney

          You two are NOT laker fans…I remember when I first saw the lakers in January of 06…I remember not knowing alot about basketball but still loved to play the great game…I then witnessed something I would never forget to this day…an 81 point game…kobe wasn’t a man on that court, he was a god, and it made me want to become an nba player, it made me want to watch the lakers and delve deep into their great history, it made me want to compete in life lik he did in sports…kobe isn’t just a trading chip or scrub player that u just throw away when u think he’s washed up (btw, it’s harden not “harding”)…no…kobe is a knight, he’s a fighter, he’s a contender (no matter who’s on his team)…so why don’t u buy a Chris Paul jersey and forget about the lakers, because u two obviously don’t appreciate the organization or its courageous leader…

          • Dragon Ed

            Hey gmoney,, I am NOT saying that Kobe wasn’t any good during this hey-day (during his peak). He was a SUPER star when the Lakers won championships. However,, all those days of glory (when Kobe was great,, and when the Lakers are great) are all in the past. True,, Kobe scored 81 points in a game way back in January 2006 but that wasn’t just a couple months ago,, that was a bleeping 8 years ago! For that matter,, back in May, 1980; (an insurmountable 34 years ago), Magic Johnson played Guard AND Center (all in Game-6 of the Finals) and scored approx 50 points to single-handidly (and heroically) BEAT the 76ers in those finals! Magic CERTAINLY can not duplicate that feat today,, and I have no doubt that Kobe is totally INcapable of duplicating his 81 point scoring,, today,, 8 years later! Bottom LINE is,, Laker Fans need to do a “REALITY check” regarding the PRESENT state of the team! The Lakers are now at their absolute WORST level of their 70 year franchise history! Considering all the “realities” of today,,, the Lakers will most likely REMAIN a 20-62 team,, EVERY season starting now, for at least the next 20 consecutive seasons (before they even break 500)! I know it’s a sad reality for Laker Fans,, but (as the “read it and weep” ole saying goes), it so HAPPENS to be the reality! IOW,, the Lakers are going to totally SUCK and get their butts kicked,, in pretty much EVERY regular season game from now to about the year 2035 !!! Hopefully Laker fans have held onto videotapes of previous championship playoff runs (examples: 1985,, 1987,,, 1988,, 2000,, 2001,, 2002,, 2009,,, 2010,,, etc). I recommend Laker fans continually WATCH those,, to help relieve the severe,, long-term depression! :>)

  • Abel Tovar

    Good! Hope he does leave. Father Time has caught up and he’s only holding the team back now with his contract, poor play and slow defense. I love Kobe but I’m not dumb enough to think he’s going to come back and be the same player. He want to leave, then go.

    • Checkyoself

      Slow defense, Poor play??? Which games are you watching? Smush…. Is that you?

      • Abel Tovar

        I watched all 6 pathetic games he played this year. He was slow on defense and a black hole on offense. And I also saw him cripple the team with his contract and have the nerve to expect a max player to take a pay cut to play with HIM?! He’s gone senile.

        • Khoa Tran

          kobe did not agree with the CBA and carries himself accordingly…. he does not expect any star to take a cut, he expects the team to pay the player’s worth and the luxury tax that comes with it because the lakers are a very very very profitable business and does not need that stay under cap stuff to survive as a business like small market teams. Kobe, again, stands for what he believes in….. I would like Miami if those guys came together and signed contracts for their worth and won… but to get together, take pay cuts to win…. smells of Collusion (is an agreement between two or more parties, sometimes illegal and therefore secretive, to limit open competition by deceiving, misleading, …) and clarifies that though Lebron is a beast, he can’t get it done as lead dog. And wade is a broken lead dog, and Bosch accepts third billing, kinda shameful for supposedly competitive minded players in their prime. So for everyone that says Kobe is selfish and won’t win another…. its one battle at a time and he won the first one which is getting paid his dues, next, getting the FO to sign more players with potential and talent. But to not get paid, would be losing up front… like Lebron, wade n bosch… imagine if Barkley in his prime, did the Texas Drexler deal…. you would not listen to the manly macho dribble out of his mouth now would you…. but he did duke it out and tried…. and only in the end, when his body was tiring, did he go to the rockets with Drexler and Olajuwon others……. macho…..definitely not LA (i got cramps) Bron ….

          • Melanin Factor

            You were doing again until you started with the Heat hating, and then made evident your stupidity.

          • Khoa Tran

            doing again ? I hate the collusion aspects… not the team

          • Jerry Arthur Newcomb

            They cannot get over the limit unless they have players under contract. So he has to take less, and then over time let the cash build up and then, because of the cap, only then can they grow in personal and in money over the cap!

  • Dorian Holden

    Fox has been feeling himself lately. Going on radio talking about he should be the coach of the Knicks recently!! The Lakers of course will never trade Kobe but even if they wanted to, who is going to take that 24 mil a year contract. This is a non story.

  • Robert Kowsky

    Kobe will be to old after this 2 year contract but IMO he will be back to his old scoring machine self to me though they have no one else in there team if they want to at least make the playoffs I would sign free agents Loul deng and bring back Trevor ariza with them plus Kobe and gasol they can be a playoff team

    • Dragon Ed

      The Lakers should try to acquire Tyson Chandler (if he becomes available), and perhaps Chris Bosh,, OR Kevin Love. The players they have right now just aren’t cutting it and don’t have what it takes to win a single ball-game (espeically the underachieving Pau Gasol)!

  • mgd

    I would have to agree with Abel. The Lakers are in this hole due to overpaid contracts. Let’s be honest, money talks and bullsh*t walks. Nobody will take Kobe and his 24 million dollar contract. If Kobe wants to walk let him. The recovery process will be that much quicker

  • Khoa Tran

    At no point Has Kobe aligned himself with any other team in Basketball than the Lakers and Team USA… so Kobe does Not want to walk so quit acting resentful or glad

    • mark morgan

      lol..I’m so confused why these little kids keep saying “if he wants to walk let him”. Did he ever said this?..come on kids dont get mad just to get mad ..makes no sense.

      • Khoa Tran

        amen…. their xbox games must be reloading so they have all this angst built up while waiting

  • Rod Roberts

    Rick Fox is hardup for attention….. his comments are baseless.

  • Jerry Arthur Newcomb

    Kobe will not win another ring no matter what if he demands the pay he wants. the only way to win anywhere is if he is willing to take less so a team can build a championship caliber team.. Fox is obviously not very intelligent about things..

    • gmoney

      Ur obviously not very intelligent about things if you think kobe isn’t gonna win another ring

      • Disqus189781378

        Not with his salary he won’t. Can’t have a bunch of no-name scrubs around 1 Kobe Bryant and expect to win it all. We need to get rid of Kobe so the Lakers can finally rebuild the right way, and then cleanse our fan base of the 8 year old Kobe fans who know nothing of basketball.

  • Glenn Towery

    Kobe will become a Knick and win another championship in New York with head coach Fisher…. The zen master strikes again!

  • Disqus189781378

    Wrong. Not everybody would want Kobe. Not many teams could even AFFORD Kobe’s contract right now. I’d say maybe three or four teams really have the budget to buy Kobe’s contract out, and still have money left to build around it, but then it brings up another point: No team would dump that much money into an aging (and now injured) Kobe Bryant. He probably has maybe 2 or 3 more decent seasons in his tank and that’s it.