( 4UMF NEWS ) Kobe Bryant To Retire After Next Season:
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on Friday in a radio interview that Kobe Bryant’s next season will be his last in the NBA.
“He has indicated to me that this is it,” Kupchak told Sirius XM NBA Radio. “There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don’t think there will be.”
Those are strong words from someone with firsthand knowledge of the situation and strong ties with Bryant. It’s not the first time Kupchak has talked about the end of Bryant’s career being nigh:
“All indications are, to me, from him, that this (two-year contract) is going to be it,” Kupchak said. “If somebody’s thinking of buying a ticket three years from now to see Kobe play, I would not do that. Don’t wait. Do it this year.”
That’s what he told David Aldridge in December 2014. This time, however, he’s using more forceful language. “I think it is clear,” he continued. “He’s on the last year of his deal. There have been no discussions [about playing beyond next season]. He hasn’t indicated that he wants to continue to play.”
Bryant will enter the last year of a contract that will pay him $25 million next season, the highest salary in the NBA. After two injury-riddled years, he would have to take a huge paycut to return. With the Lakers struggling to find relevance, it makes little sense for Bryant to keep pushing his body for less money and with little chance to win a championship at age 38 in the 2016-17 season. It has been speculated that Bryant would retire, but this is as close to a declarative statement as has been offered yet.
Kupchak refused to completely dismiss the possibility of Bryant returning, saying “a year from now, if there’s something different to discuss, then it will be discussed then.” But the tone of the interview suggested that’s not a likely scenario. If the Lakers somehow manage to build a contender this offseason it would be plausible to imagine Bryant changing his mind and pursuing a sixth championship. That doesn’t seem to be in the cards, however, as they don’t have enough cap space to offer two max contracts and have struggled attracting free agents lately.
Bryant averaged 22 points per game, but only played in 36 games this past season. He surpassed Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list, now trailing only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He’s a living legend who has won five championships and inspired millions. If next season is indeed his last, his legacy is secure.