Maybe it was the nostalgia of playing in Madison Square Garden for possibly the last time. Or, perhaps it was result of an aging star finally realizing that the game is beginning to pass him by. Whatever the reason, Kobe Bryant acknowledged over the weekend that, as of now, he plans on making this season his final one in the NBA.
"If you asked me today, this would be my last year. But you never know," Bryant said Saturday, via ESPN Los Angeles' Baxter Holmes. "We'll keep it open. Whatever happens, happens."
Lakers coach Byron Scott acknowledged the same thought after Sunday's loss.
"That's the first time that he hinted to me that this might be his last year," Scott said Sunday, via ESPN. Scott said Bryant had told him that, "this might be my last year, so if possible, I would like to try to play every game."
Bryant did walk back his words slightly after the loss to the Knicks Sunday, saying that his mind had yet to be made up. Asked what would influence his decision Bryant answered, "Just desire. If i want to put my body through it again and continue to play."
Bryant, 37 and in his 20th year in the league, is in the final season of the two-year, $48.5-million contract he signed in 2013. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak did say Bryant told him this season would be his last in the NBA, and Bryant has hinted at retirement in the past. But Saturday's words are as clear as Bryant has been on the matter.
Bryant, like the 1-5 Lakers, has struggled this season. He's averaging just 16.5 points per game and shooting 32 percent from the field.
Bryant was clearer on his desire to not play for another team. "I'm a Laker for life," he said.
Nor does he plan on becoming a coach.
"I don't feel like dealing with divas," Bryant said. "They're a pain in the ass."
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SB Nation presents: The time Kobe asked a 10-year-old for life advice