It’s safe to say that 2015 hasn’t exactly been a dream season for Kobe Bryant. His numbers have dipped over the past few weeks (22.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG) while he’s missed nearly all of the team’s practices this year. More importantly, the LA Lakers are just 12-29 right now and mired in a rebuilding process that’s in its early stages. So it should come as little surprise that Bryant is at least considering retirement as his team continues to slip out of playoff contention.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the Black Mamba admitted that retiring isn’t totally out of the question. “I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t crossed my mind,” he said. “Right now I doubt it … but anything’s possible. My body is hurting like crazy, around the clock, and if I don’t want to do this anymore, I won’t do it.”
Beyond his words, perhaps the most-telling sign that Bryant’s career may be winding down is how willingly he accepts game and practice restrictions. “I know everyone is surprised I’m not fighting all this,” Bryant said. “But I’ve changed.”
Given that Bryant is sitting while the Lakers are losing, some have accused the team of tanking just to keep a top-5 protected draft pick. However, the 19-year veteran quickly denies these allegations, calling them “sacrilegious” for he and his team. Instead, the real scenario is that he hopes rest will ward off another Achilles tendon tear.
“The Achilles’ rupture gives you a lot of perspective, I think the Achilles’ issue scared everyone,” he explained. “They don’t want to wear the tendons down, because you just can’t see that coming, there’s no warning: Pow! It’s gone. We understand how a player can rupture an Achilles’ then rupture the other one, we’re very conscious of that type of stuff.”
The question that many want to know is if Bryant will return for next season. As it is, he stands to make $25 million by returning for the 2015-16 season – a hard amount to turn down. But on the other hand, Bryant says, “I don’t care about the money,” while reiterating that he’ll walk away if he doesn’t feel like playing any longer.
Even No. 24 doesn’t seem to have any clue on what will happen next season or beyond. These could be the final months that he plays in the NBA, or he could return for another season in hopes of chasing the postseason. “I love figuring stuff out,” Bryant stated. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, I don’t know if I’m going to play an extra [next] year, but while I’m playing, I want to be able to figure this stuff out.”
Obviously Bryant’s not going to have a real shot at the playoffs this year. But with the right plan and enough rest, maybe he’ll be ready to play one more season. And if the Lakers can recruit the right free agents, they’ll have a chance to give Bryant a proper send-off party.