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Kobe says he’ll be playing at age 40… only at a YMCA

Nov 6, 2012, 9:55 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom AP

You need to look at this thing through the eyes of Kobe Bryant the businessman: He is the NBA’s biggest international star. When he goes to China or Spain or Turkey, he is a star on the level normally reserved for soccer gods.

So when he is asked when he might retire and he says something like “age 40” the implication isn’t that he’ll be in the NBA at that time going all Jason Kidd, it’s that he might play a year or two overseas after his stateside career ends. Keeping that hope alive is good business.

All of which brings us to the last week. It makes sense for Kobe to tell a respected Turkish reporter he might play to 40 because it keeps hope alive. But you can guess what Kobe told local reporters when pressed on the issue Tuesday, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“Playing until I’m 40 is not beyond the realm of possibility,” he said. “There’s always YMCA games, there’s always pickup games. I’ll probably be playing as long as I’m living.”

There you go, at age 40 Kobe could drop in on your YMCA game and blow the curve up.

Kobe has said more than once he could hang it up after two years. He has said more than once that when the guys he blows by now blow by him he is walking away. My guess is after two seasons he is going to see how his body feels and how the Lakers are set and decide if he wants to come back for a year or two at a discounted price — like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan just did — or walk away. I bet he plays a year or two beyond that, but it’s no sure thing.

As Bill Parcells has said: “When you’re thinking about retiring, or you’re retired, you’re retired.”

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