In an interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears, Kobe Bryant was his typically, chatty self. They spoke about playing style, the Lakers’ future and, of course, the end. When asked about his impending retirement, Bryant gave a pretty perfect answer.
“We haven’t set anything in stone and I’ve talked about it before. But could this be the last [season]? 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.’
“I’m making this very simple. Either I like playing the game and going through this process or I don’t. I try to strip it down to the simplest form. Either I like playing some more or I don’t. But I think that decision needs to be made after the season. It’s hard to make a decision like that before the season.”
Asking an athlete if they’re ready to hang ’em up is like asking a person if they can do without a limb. Their sport has become a part of their being. We could keep asking Kobe the same question on a loop throughout the season and I guarantee we’ll get some version of this answer every time until the 82nd game has ended.
He won’t know for sure until then. Take that back. He won’t know for sure until after he’s made the decision to retire. That’s how this works.
Spears also asked about a farewell tour and, again, got the expected answer.
“It’s hard to do that type of stuff because I don’t know if I’m going to retire or not. It’s not a swan song when it all has not been written.”
First, I honestly don’t think Kobe wants some kind of sappy Derek Jeter tour. He’s said as much before. Bryant will go down as the more polarizing player, if not athlete, of his generation. It’s made for a ridiculously stupid narrative (on both sides) surrounding him for his entire career which has probably eroded at his desire for public displays of affection.
As I wrote previously, the best way to avoid such a tour is to continue to question whether or not this season is his last. Why shower Kobe with gifts if even he is not even positive this will be his last season? If teams choose to do so anyway, they better keep the receipts.
Bryant also mentioned the changes he has made to his body so as better to compete at this stage in his career.
“The body is good. I feel good. … My lower body is solid. There are no question marks on what I can do. My body and my legs feel extremely strong and healthy. That’s the big difference. My upper body, I’ve been doing the weights and stuff like that. I’ve been kind of building up the upper body strength. The biggest change is I feel very, very solid in my legs.”
Bulking up for a season where it seems he’ll spend more time at small forward than at his natural shooting shooting guard position makes a ton of sense. Sure, he might lose a step in terms of quickness, but what he gains in strength might actually better suit him for this season.
Look, if I had to bet my house on it, I’d say this is probably it for Kobe. It sucks. Asking if this is indeed it will not preclude that decision, though. So as much as any reporter would love to be the one to break this decision, I do not believe that’s how this will go down. Bryant will make this choice whenever he does and move on accordingly.
Until then, let’s just sit back and watch one the game’s greatest competitors fight his greatest foe: time.