LOS ANGELES, September 29- Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant said Monday he has not made any decision over his looming retirement as he prepares to embark on his 20th season with the franchise.
Bryant’s future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent months as the 37-year-old enters the second year of a two-year contract deal signed in 2013 that will see him earn $25 million this season.
Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Friday he believed Bryant could elect to extend his career with another team after this season, doubting he would choose to retire.
But Bryant kept reporters guessing on Monday as he wearily brushed off questions about his plans, saying he didn’t know when the time would come.
“I don’t know what will be the decisive factor,” Bryant said.
“How do we know when it’s time? Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, it was different for all of them. Will I wake up one morning and say ‘That’s it’? Is it a gradual thing?”
“I don’t spend much time to think about it — there is so much to think about, this season, this group.”
Bryant admitted that having to field questions about his retirement date “can be a pain in the ass.”
“But when I sit back and think about it, it’s cool, because it means that I had a very good career, people respect my career.”
The Lakers’ fortunes have nosedived in recent years, with the team failing to make the playoffs last year.
Bryant’s fortunes have also fluctuated, with shoulder, Achilles and knee injuries all limiting his ability to help inspire the team as the elder statesman.
He acknowledged that prospects for the upcoming season were uncertain, but said he was excited by the mix of experience and youth on the roster.
“There are big question marks on that team, but I am excited, there are young guys, veterans who have played together in the past, it’s an interesting mix, we have done the work, now it’s the time to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Bryant said.
“It’s interesting to be around these young guys, it’s the beginning of their career, of their journey. I am as excited as I have been for a long time. They are bringing energy, it’s fun to be part of that — it makes you feel younger.”