Even for someone who has encountered so much success, since entering the Association back in 1996, this had to have been a very special week for Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant. Sunday, “The Black Mamba” knocked down 17 points, in what he claims is his final Olympic game as Team USA won their second consecutive Gold Medal in basketball, defeating a very tough Team Spain, by a final of 107-100. If Bryant sticks to his vow, he exits the games with a perfect record of 2-0.
Kobe also received some exciting news this past week while he was in London for the 2012 Olympic competition, that emanated from the West Coast of the USA, involving his team. Bryant found out that he will be running the floor with the best center of his generation, for at least the upcoming campaign, as the Lakers acquired former Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard in a four-team trade, Thursday night.
Although Bryant was supposed to be concentrating strictly on the games ahead for Team USA, when he heard the news; according to the ”Los Angeles Times” the veteran could not contain his glee when he found out; as excited as a toddler on Christmas morning. Bryant told reporters “I talked to Dwight this morning, he gave me a call, he was happy to find a home. I told him, Los Angeles is the perfect place for him, look at history, all the great centers that have come to L.A., now he’s the next in line, he couldn’t have been in a better position than to be with this type of an organization.”
Although Kobe realizes that Howard will not sign an extension before next summer, the team’s leader believes that the big man’s his role on the squad, will convince him to stay and that he could have the best chance of winning his first NBA Title with the franchise. Bryant said “He’s not going to have to sacrifice that much. he does what he does, he’ll get more touches here than he did in Orlando. … The simple fact is, we’ll play through him a lot. He’ll be a lot more at ease because he’s surrounded by better talent.”
The 34-year-old veteran, who just completed season number 16 in the Association and with Los Angeles, sounds like he is ready to hand over the keys to the car, that he has driven, mainly by himself since former teammate Shaquile O’Neal left the club. Bryant told reporters “Look, I’m going to play two, maybe three more years … then the team is his. I’m excited for the Laker franchise. Now they have a player that can carry the franchise well after I’m gone. It should be his. He should be willing to accept that challenge.”
Two or three more years? In most cases that would sound about right, but the Lakers All-Star is still playing at the top of his game, averaging 27.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per contest this past campaign. Unless his game falls apart completely in the next two to three seasons, this is not a man who will be ready to leave the game. Does that mean that the Los Angeles superstar is planning ahead, to finish out his career overseas?
Bryant is very comfortable in Europe, as he spent much his childhood there while his dad Joe Bryant played there for a lot of seasons. There would be no culture shock, for the veteran if he decides to play in Italy or Spain. Another option, would be for him to finish his career in China, as the Chinese people treated him like a rock-star, while he was in Beijing for the 2008 games. Bryant seemed very comfortable there as well.
Why would the Lakers veteran finish is career outside of the NBA? The answer is really two-fold; to make him more of a global icon, rather than just felt about that way in the USA. The other reason, would be strictly mercenary; he could stand to make a financial killing if he plays elsewhere. Although, money will never be a problem for the All-Star, his children and most likely their future children, he could be offered an offer he can’t refuse.
Although Bryant is now entering the last few years of his playing career, unless his game rapidly disintegrates in the next couple of campaigns, six or seven more years sound a lot more realistic for Bryant to play than two or three.