Oct 7, 2012; Fresno, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) reacts after mishandling a pass from guard Steve Nash (not pictured) against the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter at the Save Mart Center. The Warriors defeated the Lakers 110-83. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

Lakers' Kobe Bryant says he may retire in two years

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Kobe Bryant has spent nearly two decades in the NBA, winning five NBA championships in the process. If there ever was a compelling case to supplant Michael Jordan, it would likely be Bryant’s career.

His resume still has room for another championship or two. The additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard will allow him to take a necessary backseat on offense, decreasing the physical toil he puts on his body every season. Bryant has led the league in usage rate the past two seasons which isn’t a good thing for the long-term health of a 34-year-old shooting guard with 51,000 minutes under his belt.

Bryant has two seasons remaining on his contract, in which he will earn
$58.3 million. Money is not a necessity for a player whose amassed $221.44 million in career earnings alone and, if Bryant’s interview with Ken Berger of CBS Sports is any indication, it doesn’t appear that his voracious competitiveness will be able to justify multiple seasons either. The “R” word – retirement — is now an ienvitable reality. Playing in a limited role, Bryant says, is also not an option.

“It’s just that three more years seems like a really long time to continue to stay at a high, high level of training and preparation and health,” Bryant said. “That’s a lot of years. For a guard? That’s a lot of years.”

“It’s not about health necessarily. It’s about ‘Do I want to do it? Do I have that hunger to continue to prepare at a high level?'”

The Lakers are well-equipped to survive Bryant’s retirement. (Assuming, of course, that Howard signs long-term with a team that Bryant deems will be his soon.) But losing the grandeur of Bryant will be very difficult to replace.

Impossible, really. That is the standard Bryant has set for future generations — consistent excellence — and most players will be hard pressed to replicate his success. There are only so many Kobe Bryant’s around and the basketball world will suffer without the best perimeter player since Jordan.

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