Los Angeles Lakers megastar Kobe Bryant has made headlines for nearly two decades with his play on the court. But it’s unclear whether he will remain on the court after the 2015-2016 season.
During an interview with Yahoo! Sports this week, Bryant was asked whether the upcoming season would be his last—and the star guard reportedly answered “absolutely.” Rumors and reports have swirled for several seasons that Bryant’s last year was closing in fast. But with his contract set to expire after this season and the Lakers focusing on a growing youth movement in the franchise, the writing is definitely on the wall for Bryant. After a long and illustrious career, will next season be Bryant’s last in the NBA? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: The 2015-2016 season should be and will be Bryant’s last season in the NBA. Bryant has too much pride to don another uniform for another franchise. While the Lakers could and would use Bryant’s services for another season to help their roster get up to speed, Los Angeles has a nice youth renovation project going on right now, and bringing Bryant back beyond next year would only slow up that process. Injuries have sabotaged Bryant’s last few seasons and he’ll be coming off a major Achilles injury by the time the season starts. With five titles and a collection of all-star trophies and MVP awards in his stash, Bryant will bow out gracefully when the curtains close on the 2015-2016 season.
Green: Bryant is still one of the best players in the NBA and his game is suited for playing at a high level for another two to three seasons. The Lakers may choose to ride their youth wave of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle without Bryant taking up valuable shot opportunities but it’d be silly a move on the team’s part. Bryant’s done too much for the franchise to be ushered out as he enters the twilight of his career. Even if L.A. doesn’t want to bring him back, I can’t see Bryant hesitating to join another club if necessary. Basketball comes first in Bryant’s pecking order and he won’t blink at the notion of heading somewhere else. After all, LeBron did.
Riley: Strong-willed and hard-headed, Kobe probably won’t consider wearing anything other than purple and gold. The notion of potentially taking less money to play in another city would be enough to ride off in the sunset with his head held high. He’s seen other superstars dominate for years, only to retire and later come back as shells of their former selves. I know he doesn’t want that image of him on ESPN. With an expiring contract, a slew of previous injuries and a franchise ready to inject youth into its roster, it’s time for Byrant to hang up his shoes.
Green: Injuries have been the only real set back. Bryant’s too skilled to just be cast to the side. His skills and leadership will always command a roster spot. If he’s healthy, he’ll play major minutes and be a big-time contributor next season. I would love to see Kobe go out on top, but after missing significant time in two of the last three seasons, I know Bryant is itching to get back to work and play basketball. His body has taken a beating, but he’s also been well-rested considering he hasn’t played a healthy season since the 2012-2013 campaign. Kobe thinks the Lakers can make the playoffs. If he’s banking on that idea then I can’t see how he walks away when the year is up.