Kobe Bryant is under contract for two more seasons, and when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2014, he isn't 100% sure he'll keep playing. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Bryant was reminded that during his rookie season he said he'd retire at age 35, and acknowledged that "it's still probably accurate" (link via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times).
"That's a long time to be playing," Bryant said. "It'll be the last year of my contract. I don't know if I wll play any longer than that. I don't know. It's just a possibility. It's not something I even give it much thought to, but it's a possibility. It could happen."
With five rings and 29,484 career points under his belt, it would be a little suprising if Kobe were to retire just short of some career milestones. Still, Bryant told reporters that he wants to make sure he bows out at the right moment, rather than sticking around too long or retiring early and making a comeback.
"At the end of that year, probably, I think you'll know. I'm not sure," Bryant said. "I think you've seen so many players retire, think they know and then come back. I don't want to be one of those guys, but I know they've all said it too. It must be tougher than it sounds to be able to retire and know when that moment is actually there. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it, I guess."
While Bryant still scored at a prolific rate in 2011/12, at age 33, he wasn't quite as efficient as usual. His .430 FG% was his lowest rate since 1997/98, while his 21.9 PER matched his lowest mark since 1999/2000. It'll be interesting to see if those averages rebound in 2012/13, with new point guard Steve Nash taking some of the pressure off Bryant on offense.