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Kobe says he can play five more years… but don’t bet on it

Apr 12, 2013, 8:41 AM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers Bryant leaves the court against the Portland Trail Blazers after their NBA game in Portland Reuters

Often with guards, once they reach their mid-30s, you expect their production to fall off a cliff. Which has made what Kobe Bryant has done this season all the more impressive. The reasons he seems to defy Father Time are clear — his commitment to conditioning and to the fundamentals of the game (his post footwork is as good as any big in the league) give him an edge lost on most his age. Or those a decade younger.

How much longer could Kobe play?

He said five years in an interview on Time Warner Sports Net (the cable network that paid so much money to get the Lakers’ broadcast rights it spun the head of every other owner in the league). Eric Pincus at the Los Angeles Times has the transcription.

“I can probably play another five years,” said Bryant to Kevin Frazier on “Connected With…Kobe Bryant,” which aired on Wednesday night via Time Warner Cable SportsNet.

“I’m not saying I’m going to play five years…but physically I could play,” he continued.

But the question with Kobe never was “could he?” It was “will he want to?” Will he continue to want to put in the long hours of effort — in the season and out of it — to stay in elite condition and improve his game?

“Right now, no,” said Bryant, who has one more year left on his contract. “It might change but right now, no. It’s too much.”

It’s too much work for not much payoff, he should say.

Kobe isn’t going to sign another deal (next season is the last on his contract) and go through all this so he can fight for an eight seed. He’s in it for the rings. (And the idea of him jumping teams to chase rings is highly unlikely. He’ll retire a Laker.)

While Kobe has said he will make a decision on what to do before next season starts, I think in reality how close the Lakers are go being a contender after next season will be the deciding factor. If he’s going to put in all that work, will he see a payoff?

Another season like this and he probably will retire.

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