Kobe Bryant struck down an issue with as much fierce and precision as one of the many times he has scored against his opponent.
The whole idea on whether Bryant will definitely retire before or after his contract worth $25 million expires next season.
“They’re ready to put me in my grave, man,” Bryant joked Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “I’m just trying to come back from this injury. I take things a day at a time. This is a huge challenge I have in front of me right now. I just want to come back from that.”
Bryant had told those around him as recently as last summer that he planned to retire once his contract ended. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak also said this season he did not anticipate signing Bryant to another extension. Yet, Bryant strongly suggested it remains possible he may want to prolong what will mark a 20-year NBA career next season, something Lakers coach Byron Scott echoed in recent days.
First things first, obviously. Bryant will begin rehab this week after spending the past six weeks without nursing a sling. But Bryant said he will not decide when he retires until his last season ends.
“I don’t want to play through a year where everybody knows you’re retiring and they give you the old swan song,” Bryant said. “I hate that. I want to play the way I’ve been playing over the last 19 years. I want to have the same experiences that I’ve had. If you want to boo, boo. If you want to heckle, heckle. Those are things I’ll never forget.”
It seems likely Bryant will not forget the Lakers’ boisterous celebrations after defeating Boston on Sunday, either. That rare feel-good moment prompted the Lakers’ Nick Young, Jordan Hill, Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer to cheer in an on-court postgame interview with the kind of energy usually reserved after an NBA championship. All of which left Bryant disturbed and silent.
Bryant suggested with his body language that such a reaction would not fly with him once he returns in nine months, a stretch that for now may not mean the last season just yet.
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