Kobe Bryant is 38-years old and clearly much closer to the end of his Hall of Fame career than the beginning. With averages of 16.2 points on 32.1% shooting from the field and 21.1% from three point range, Bryant clearly cannot carry a team on his back anymore. This has left some wondering, most notably New York Knicks president and former Bryant coach Phil Jackson, if Bryant will search for a more competitive roster as a free agent this offseason. If Bryant wanted to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and was willing to take a paycut, he could almost certainly find a team more competitive for next season than the youthful rebuild the Lakers are currently constructing should he decide to play beyond his current contract.
"That's Phil baiting you guys like he always does," Bryant said, shaking his head after scoring 18 points in a 104-98 Lakers win over the Nets in Brooklyn. "He's a master at it.
"How many times do I need to say it? God. I've said it so many times ... I'm here. I'm a Laker for life. I'm not playing anywhere else, no matter what. It's not going to happen. I bleed purple and gold, and that's just how it's going to be."
That is certainly a strong denial from Bryant, who has used that line about "bleeding purple and gold" twice now. File it under "extremely unlikely" that Bryant will ever don another NBA uniform than the one he has worn for the past 20 years, but it is still "extremely likely" this will not be the last time he is asked.