Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports that he has not decided if next season will be his last, and praised the team on their recent draft and free agent moves.
Bryant is entering the final season of a two-year, $48.5 million contract and is set to earn $25 million in 2015—16.
“We haven’t set anything in stone and I’ve talked about it before,” Bryant said about retirement. “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.’”
Bryant has only played 41 games in the past two seasons because of injuries to his knee and shoulder, but said his body feels good.
“There are no question marks on what I can do. My body and my legs feel extremely strong and healthy,” Bryant said. “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.”
Bryant, a 17-time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA first team selection, said he likes the state of the Lakers, despite the team missing out on free agents like Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
In free agency, the Lakers added guard Lou Williams, the NBA's sixth man of the year last season with the Toronto Raptors, and forward Brandon Bass. The team traded for center Roy Hibbert, sending a future second-round draft pick to the Indiana Pacers. Los Angeles also selected guard D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
The Lakers lost a franchise-worst 61 games during the 2014—15 season and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. Los Angeles has only missed the postseason seven times in its 67-year history.
“They have really set themselves up for a promising future going on years. I think they drafted very well. The free agents that we picked are extremely solid, [Roy] Hibbert, [Brandon] Bass, Lou [Williams]. We have a very good mix of young and veteran leadership,” Bryant said. “The challenge is going to be blending the two and cutting down the learning curve.”
While Bryant says he has never played basketball for the money, and his family is “comfortable financially,” he is becoming more involved in an off-the-court venture.
Bryant launched Kobe, Inc. last year, saying he wanted to help “grow brands and ideas that challenge and redefine the sports industry while inspiring.
“There are so many things you can do, so many different ideas,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “You can go a billion different ways with partners and all kinds of stuff. I believe in having a focus, having a purpose and we have that focus and now it’s time to execute. This week is a big launcher of Kobe, Inc. We are in business here.”
- Scooby Axson