Only three players in NBA history have scored more points than Kobe Bryant.
Other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan, Bryant has outscored thousands and thousands of players who have laced up sneakers and put on a jersey in the NBA. We know Kobe is going to pass Michael Jordan's career total. But if he's going to approach Karl Malone's career total and take a stab at becoming the all-time leading scorer in the NBA by passing Kareem, he's going to have to play beyond his current contract that is up in the summer of 2014.
And Kobe's decision on playing beyond his current contract, when he'll be 36 years old and 18 seasons deep into his NBA career, is something that he'll be prepared to make this summer. From Scott Howard-Cooper at NBA.com:
Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, saying he does not want uncertainty over his future to drag through 2013-14 and with the possibility of being offered an extension this offseason, will “in all likelihood” make a decision in the summer over whether to retire after one more season.
While re-affirming that he is leaning toward walking away after an 18th campaign, Bryant made it clear in an interview with NBA.com he expects to make a call before reporting to training camp and probably even long before that. One factor in the decision is the chance to end all the endless questions. Another is to give the Lakers clarity moving forward, in general, and particularly in conjunction with any contract talks that may take place.
“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.”
It's hard to accomplish more things than Bryant has in his career. And, after a certain point, it's not like he has much more to do to cement his legacy in NBA history. He's one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league, he's one of the greatest players in the history of the league and he's one of the greatest champions this league has ever seen.
It's not like winning another title or getting up to second on the scoring list would push him up over the top of the all-time players. It would just mean his longevity, which has long seemed to be a source of pride for him, has taken him to even more accolades and accomplishments. The fact that he's not thinking about pulling a Brett Favre and he actually wants to have an exit strategy so that he, his family, and the Lakers can have a plan moving forward is extremely admirable and not something that all-time greats always have an easy time deciding.
Kobe Bryant's career has been a joy to watch. He has been inspiring, and he has been frustrating at times, but he has always been one of the top professional athletes of his generation and always entertaining. It's good to see he's at peace with his career at the moment and ready to decide when it's going to be over.