As Kobe Bryant recovers from an Achilles injury, the question of how much time he has left in the NBA has sprung to the forefront on several occasions. As of now? He says he's got another three seasons left in him, if not more, according to the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus.
Heading into his 18th season in the NBA, Kobe's no longer a spring chicken. He's still playing at a high level, finishing third in the league with 27.3 points per game, essentially carrying the Lakers into the playoffs before his injury, but at 34 years old, there are obviously questions about how much longer he can keep it going. That's important to Bryant, ever the perfectionist, who would probably rather retire than perform at an average-to-sub-par level. And he knows how much he thinks he has left in the tank, as Eric Pincus wrote in the Los Angeles Times:
"I fell [sic] pretty damn confident I can be at a high level for at least another three years," said Bryant in a video interview with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, released on Monday.
Bryant's contract, set to pay him a smidgen over $30 million in 2013-14, expires after this year. He had long discussed retiring after the contract expires -- in October, Bryant literally saying he couldn't envision himself playing three more years (via CBSSports.com), which is the exact opposite of what he's saying now:
"It's just that three more years seems like a really long time to continue to stay at a high, high level of training and preparation and health," Bryant said. "That's a lot of years. For a guard? That's a lot of years."
Since then, his mindset has obviously changed. Bryant cites his Achilles injury and watching the Spurs nearly win a title, which would have seen Tim Duncan tie Bryant with five championships, as reasons for his renewed desire to play more years. He's slowly moved away from plans of imminent retirement; a few weeks ago, he said he wanted at least "two more cracks" -- whatever that means -- at an NBA title, and now, we're hearing three years.
The NBA is pretty much all Bryant knows: at 34 years old, he's spent half of his life and virtually his entire adulthood in the league, a percentage that will grow larger and larger until he retires. His exit from the league is in the not-so-distant future, but Bryant might go out kicking.
For what it's worth, Kobe is involved in the pitch to keep Dwight Howard in Los Angeles, and Howard will be signing a contract that runs long past three years.