Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant’s contract expires at the end of this season, and it has been suggested that he may retire next summer, according to Yahoo Sports.
The 37-year-old has entertained fans for almost two decades en route to winning five NBA championships, and has produced sensational game-winning moments such as this against the Phoenix Suns in the 2006 playoffs to cement his place in NBA folklore.
While he may split opinion like few others in the league, Bryant remains one of the best to take to the hardwood and is widely considered as the second best player ever produced by the NBA behind Michael Jordan.
Scoring records, individual achievements and collective accolades will all support that argument, but it is no secret that Bryant’s injury woes over the last few years have slowed him down significantly.
A torn Achilles, a fractured knee and a torn rotator cuff have all seen his influence and minutes on the court dramatically reduced, and it becomes a question of whether or not he can continue to fight back and get to a level that makes him believe he is still making a significant contribution.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak believes that Bryant will be ready for training camp and will play in their season opener in October, as reported by Sports Illustrated, but it is whether or not he can avoid any further setbacks which will be the main concern.
Former teammate Shaquille O’Neal believes that Kobe can play on beyond this season, as noted by CBS Sports, but with the Lakers going through a transitional period, is it time for ‘Mamba’ to walk away?
The Lakers have D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle among others that are likely to form the new core of their roster, and coach Byron Scott will give them more influence on the team this season.
Coupled with concerns over whether or not Bryant’s body can withstand the pressures that he has coped with over the last 19 seasons, the veteran may well be given a more limited role on the team.
If Bryant bounces back and has a stellar season in which the Lakers reach the playoffs, then why not come back for another year. However, if he breaks down again or the same fluid movement and rhythm just isn’t there anymore, it’s time to let the Lakers move on and enjoy what has been a spectacular career.