“Will he or won’t he?” Kobe retirement pieces will be written all season or until he definitively comes out and says for certain either way. Consider this your latest installment. If you don’t want to read it, either skip to the bottom or go read about D’Angelo Russell.
I have long been of the mind that Kobe will retire at the end of the season. My logic is pretty simple and can best be summed up by something I wrote this past August:
While he’s always talked about loving the work (and he does that in this interview as well), he’s also begun to actually discuss it like it is work. The long hours, the rehabs, the time spent in the gym and the weight room, I get the sense it is evolving for him.
The shift might be subtle and there is a chance I am overplaying this, but my feeling is that it’s not necessarily who he is as much as it is what he does, now. I’m not in his head, of course, but the nature in which he speaks about the effort required of him to simply maintain his current level (or, in the case of rehabbing, to get back to where he was) isn’t the same as when he was younger and these discussions still centered on getting better and adding something new to keep him on top.
I cannot say how this might translate into any decision after this upcoming season concludes, but as Kobe notes, at some point he will not want to put in the work anymore. Even discussing the work in these terms makes me feel like we are close to that point.
Those are my words, though. In a recent sit-down with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Kobe gave his strongest words yet on the topic:
Kobe told Coach K on SiriusXM that "if something changes 'll come back and play next season. If something doesn't change this is it for me."
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) November 19, 2015
If I’m being honest, I don’t see much changing.
Kobe’s already dealing with the physical toll of playing in his 20th year. After missing two games with a sore back, Kobe played 37 minutes in a win over Pistons and promptly told reporters his back stiffened up, his legs were sore, and he was not looking forward to having to walk back to his car. He did not play the following night.
Also, the Lakers are likely to remain a not very good team. If the Lakers’ win total doesn’t exceed the 20’s again, the likelihood of Kobe wanting to return are slim. Add to that the team very likely asking him to take a step back in role and in compensation and those odds decrease further.
Sure, I could see Kobe saying he’s willing to come back if the Lakers hit multiple home runs in free agency next July, but if that is the level of change needed to facilitate him holding off on retiring, that is a very long shot. Nothing is impossible, of course, but…let’s also be realistic.
This, then, is another reminder to try and enjoy Kobe as much as you can while you can. Because the odds of him returning next year are low. Don’t take my word for it, take his.