LOS ANGELES: Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant hinted that next season may be his last on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) after admitting it was “absolutely” possible he may finally call time on his glittering NBA career.
The 36-year-old icon’s recent seasons have been disrupted by various injuries, but Bryant said he was feeling fit and ready for another campaign with the Lakers, who missed the playoffs last season for only the seventh time.
Bryant told Yahoo Sports he has not made a decision about his future yet, explaining that he will continue playing as long as he takes enjoyment from the sport.
“We haven’t set anything in stone. And I’ve talked about it before,” Bryant said.
“But could this be the last? Absolutely. “It’s tough to decide. It’s really tough to make those types of decisions. Players I have spoken to say, ‘Kobe, you will know.’”
Bryant insisted that his body was ready for the rigors of another season despite his recent injury record.
“There are no question marks on what I can do (physically),” the 17-time All-Star said.
“My body and my legs feel extremely strong and healthy,” adding that he expected to make a decision on his future at the end of the season.
“I’m making this very simple. Either I like playing the game and going through this process or I don’t,” Bryant said. “But I think that decision needs to be made after the season.”
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in May that Bryant had already signalled that the coming season would be his last.
“He has indicated to me this is it,” Kupchak said. “He’s on the last year of a deal. There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don’t think there will be.”
Bryant has played for the Lakers for his entire NBA career, but a succession of injuries have left him unable to regularly display the form that made him a 17-time All-Star, two-time NBA scoring champion and two-time Olympic champion.
Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon in April of 2013 to end his season, but signed a two-year contract extension worth $48.5 million that set him up to become the first player to compete for the same club for 20 seasons.