In an interview with a CNN Turkey reporter, Kobe Bryant said that his goal was to play until he is 40 years old, giving hope to Laker fans that expected him to retire at the end of his current contract.
I think we all knew that it was going to be very tough for Kobe Bryant, one of the most relentless competitors in the history of sports, to hang 'em up at the completion of his contract like he has said he would, and now we know that he's having second thoughts. In fact, Bryant says he wants to play an additional five seasons after next season (when his contract expires).
"My aim is to play until I’m 40 years old and I believe I can do that. This year, we added very good players to our squad. Steve Nash, Dwight Howard will make us stronger. Right now, things are not going very well but I believe it’ll get better soon."
"During the lock-out, I had offers from Turkey and other countries. Beşiktaş was interested in me and they had talks with my agent, but I want to use the lock-out time to recover from my injuries and spend more time with my family so I turned the offers down. Who knows, maybe one day I play basketball in Turkey."
The catch here is that it was a solo interview with CNN Turkey and that he mentions that he may one day play in Turkey. Not to say Kobe is lying, but this could be more about marketing and future career endeavors than Bryant's actual aspirations to play in the NBA until he is 40.
Still, knowing that leaving the game will be the most difficult thing Kobe has ever done, I could envision Bryant keeping his career going past his current deal. Bryant is dealing with a foot injury, but it's obvious that this new Laker cast has given Kobe a role that is less physically taxing, and he is playing the most efficient ball that he has played in over a decade right now. Assuming that Dwight Howard signs an extension this summer, Bryant could thrive as the second option next to Dwight because it would keep him fresh.
Aside from giving him more chances to catch or surpass Michael Jordan's title count, staying in the league until he is 40 would also give Kobe a chance to break the all-time scoring record, which I'm sure is a goal of his.
I'm not sure if I totally buy Bryant's change of heart just yet, but in the event that he follows through with his recent proclamation, think about this: Bryant will have been a Laker from the day he became a legal adult to the day he went over the hill.