Assuming the Los Angeles Lakers do not win a championship this year, and all signs indicate that they won't, next season may be Kobe Bryant's last chance to tie Michael Jordan's mark of six NBA titles.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com that he is strongly considering retiring after the 2013-14 campaign. While he still hasn't finalized his decision, Bryant appears to be leaning toward calling it quits when his contract is up next year.
"We’ll talk,” Bryant said after piling up 19 points, 14 assists against one turnover and nine rebounds while playing all but 23 seconds of the 103-98 victory over the Kings at Sleep Train Arena. “I'll talk to my family and stuff and really see if I want to continue to sacrifice as much as I'm sacrificing right now. I'm putting my body through a lot to just try to get ready to play every single night. To do what I’m doing right now, it’s not easy. I’ll tell you, it’s taken a lot of commitment."
Is your sense that next season will be your last?
"As I sit here right now, yeah."
As recently as November Bryant said he would like to play until he's 40. At the end of the 2014 season, which would be his 18th in the NBA, Bryant will be 36. Bryant's mindset may have changed during the course of the season, as he has suffered several painful foot and ankle injuries.
While he made a big move over the weekend by passing Wilt Chamberlain to move into fourth place on the league's all-time scoring list, Bryant still has a ways to go if he wants to pass league leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But Bryant said he's more concerned with rings than with scoring.
"I just want No. 6, man," Bryant told ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin. "I'm not asking for too much, man. Just give me a sixth ring, damn it."
Bryant hopes to have made a final decision before training camp in the fall.