Kobe Bryant's contract with the Los Angeles Lakers expires after the 2013-2014 NBA season, but the 17-year veteran expects to make his retirement decision as early as this summer, Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com reports.
Bryant has touched on his retirement throughout the season, but has yet to give a firm commitment on how much further he's willing to push once the season ends. Kobe's comments came on a night where he surpassed Wilt Chamberlain for fourth in all-time on the scoring list, notching 31,434 points in his career.
Both Bryant and the Lakers will have plenty to consider once his $30 million contract comes off the books. Another piece to the puzzle remains Dwight Howard's impending free agency. Should Howard remain with the Lakers the Lakers' salary cap is structured to have only Howard and Steve Nash to account for when Los Angeles enters the 2014-2015 season.
Can the Lakers and Bryant find a number that makes sense should he decide he wants to continue beyond his 18th season in the league? When asked if he felt next season would be his last, Bryant responded by saying that his current sense is that he will end his career after the 2013-2014 season, and that the decision is solely his as the Lakers can't say anything to change his mind (via Howard-Cooper):
Is your sense that next season will be your last?
"As I sit here right now, yeah."
Is there anything the Lakers can say that would make it more likely you played beyond next season?
"No," Bryant told NBA.com. "It’s my decision. It’s really about what I want to do, if I want to train and be psychotic with my training. That’s what it comes down to. It’s really how I’m feeling physically."
Bryant is currently averaging 27.1 points per game in the 38.1 minutes per game he's averaging at age 34.