The Los Angeles Lakers are headed toward a new era, but general manager Mitch Kupchak does not anticipate Kobe Bryant will stick around beyond the final year of his contract. "He has indicated to me that this is it," Kupchak told Sirius XM NBA Radio on Thursday. The 2015-2016 season could be the last ride for Bryant and the Lakers.
This isn't the first time Kupchak has alluded to Bryant's contract being the end of the line for the five-time NBA Champion. Kupchak gave a similar quote to NBA.com's David Aldridge in December, again stating that all "indications" are that Kobe Bryant will retire once his contract expires.
The question is inevitable for Mitch, though, as he makes his rounds with media following the Lakers' huge win on lottery night. His response has been consistent over the last few months, which lends further credence to the fact that this very well may be it for the Black Mamba. Kupchak elaborated further on the front office's current understanding of how Kobe Bryant fits into their future during his interview with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio:
"We haven't even begun to go down that road...the last time I talk to him about something like this this was it. The 2 years, he was gonna run through a wall for us, and then...he was gonna hang 'em up, and that's where it is today. I would be very surprised if there was any kind of discussion until, if at all, a year from now."
Every report leading up to now has suggested Kobe will look to make his exit from the hardwood at the end of the 2015-2016 season. It's not set in stone yet, and Bryant may not make his intentions clear until he has to make a final decision. He's made it clear he doesn't want a "farewell tour" during his final season, so expect his decision on retirement to be kept close to the vest until he's ready to make an announcement.