LOS ANGELES: Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant said on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) he won’t play in the Rio Olympics but will make his retirement from basketball official with his last Los Angeles Lakers game.
Bryant, 37, has said this 20th season of his NBA career will be his last.
Although he said in December another Olympic appearance would be a “beautiful” ending to his career, he said Saturday that it wasn’t in the cards.
“I think as beautiful as it would be to play for our country, when I say my last game is going to be my last game, I’m going to retire, then that’s it,” Bryant said prior to the Lakers’ game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.
“It’s not like I’m going to walk off the stage and then (say), ‘But I’m going to come right back for a minute. Hold on one second.’
“You know what I mean? I think it’s pretty sweet to have the final game be in a Laker uniform and support the (Olympic) players from afar.”
Bryant’s final game is scheduled to be April 13, when the Lakers host the Jazz at the Staples Center.
In international play, Bryant won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, but he said he’s realized that it’s time for younger players to pick up the torch.
“Since my retirement announcement, I’m able to watch these (younger) guys in a different light,” Bryant said. “I’ve come to terms with the fact that they are the future of this game.
“These are the guys who deserve the spots in Rio. These are the guys who people need to watch and root for. These are the guys to show fans where this game is going in the future.”