In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Lakers owner Jim Buss talked about Kobe Bryant’s future with the team beyond 2016, when his contract expires. The Lakers are the only NBA team Bryant has played for — he was drafted by the Hornets straight out of high school in 1996 but was traded to the Lakers days later. In his 19 seasons in Los Angeles, Bryant has helped lead the team to five NBA Championships, earning MVP honors in two of those NBA Finals series.
Bryant is now 37, though, and has a lot of wear on his body from all of the games he has played, including in the postseason. When asked in the Times interview about Bryant’s future with the team, Buss left the door open for a potential future beyond next year, but did indicate that Bryant would be more of a role player if he chooses to continue his career with the Lakers:
“He just has to know, at that age, and that many miles on you, what is your role? We’ll explain the role, and if he still wants to do that and that’s how he wants to go out, that’s fine with me.”
Giving Bryant a reduced role in the game makes sense for the Lakers because of injuries that have plagued the shooting guard in recent years, leading to reduced playing time and, when he’s on the court, decreased performance. In 35 games last season, Bryant averaged 22.3 points per game, more than 11% below his career average of 25.4.