Bryant ready for likely final season

NBA player Kobe Bryant taking a selfie with hordes of fans during a promotional event at a store in Guangzhou, China last Sunday. The 17-time All-Star says that despite injuries in recent seasons, he feels fit for another campaign with the Los Angele
NBA player Kobe Bryant taking a selfie with hordes of fans during a promotional event at a store in Guangzhou, China last Sunday. The 17-time All-Star says that despite injuries in recent seasons, he feels fit for another campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers, which would most likely be his last.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has hinted that next season may be his last, after admitting it was "absolutely" possible he may finally call time on his glittering National Basketball Association (NBA) career.

The 36-year-old icon's recent seasons have been disrupted by various injuries. However, he said he was feeling fit and ready for another campaign with the Lakers, who missed the play-offs last season for only the seventh time.

Bryant told Yahoo Sports that he has not made a decision about his future yet, explaining that he will continue playing as long as he takes enjoyment from the sport.

"We haven't set anything in stone. And I've talked about it before," he said. "But could this be the last? 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 insisted that his body is ready for the rigours of another season, despite his recent injury record. "There are no question marks on what I can do (physically)," the 17-time All-Star said.

"My body and my legs feel extremely strong and healthy," he noted. And he expects to make a decision about his future at the end of the season.

"I'm making this very simple. Either I like playing the game and going through this process or I don't.

"But I think that decision needs to be made after the season."

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in May that Bryant had already signalled that the coming season would be his last.

"He has indicated to me this is it," Kupchak said. "He's on the last year of a deal. There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don't think there will be."

Bryant has played for the Lakers for his entire NBA career.

A succession of injuries have left him unable to regularly display the form that made him a 17-time All-Star, two-time NBA scoring champion and two-time Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012.

Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon in April 2013 to end his season. But he signed a two-year contract extension worth US$48.5 million (S$66.9 million) that set him up to become the first player to compete for the same club for 20 seasons.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2015, with the headline 'Bryant ready for likely final season'. Print Edition | Subscribe