Does anyone else smell another two-year, $48.5 million extension coming for the Black Mamba?
Yeah, me neither.
Here’s what Shaq had to say, per John Reid of the Times Picayune:
As former teammates, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal have not always been on the best of terms with each other.
But O’Neal encourages Bryant to continue playing beyond this season if he desires so. Bryant will be in the final year of his contract in which he will earn a league-high $25 million this upcoming season. He won’t make a decision to return or retire until after this season.
”If you still got something, you should go because once it’s done you can’t get it back,” O’Neal said. ”If I hadn’t got hurt I would have went on and played my last season to try and break Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record.
”But it’s different for a guard because they got control –‘I’m going to shoot this.’
It’s been assumed all along that next season, Kobe’s 20th, would be his last. He’ll be 38 when 2016-17 rolls around, and he’s appeared in just 41 games since rupturing his Achilles tendon in April of 2013. The Los Angeles Lakers are also stuck in the throes of a rebuild, at a point where they need to develop Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell and hope that their direction is enough to, eventually, entice top-tier free agents.
Kobe doesn’t fit too neatly into that plan. Any shots he takes are looks, are exposure, are learning experiences, that could be spent on someone younger and more likely to be part of Hollywood’s long-term plan. And unless he accepts an incredible discount in free agency next summer, along the lines of a veteran’s minimum deal, he isn’t a selling point for guys like Kevin Durant and Al Horford.
Even if he does take that discount, there’s still no predicting whether he’s someone other stars in their prime would leap at the opportunity to play alongside. He doesn’t have the best track record as a teammate, and, most importantly, someone like KD might not want to deal with the tacit politics behind superseding Kobe in status without weaseling in on a territory he’s called his own for two decades.
Still, if Kobe has a bounce-back year, continuing on is not out of the realm of possibility. He’s obsessed with chasing that sixth championship, with catching Michael Jordan, with reminding the world of where he stands in the discussion of all-time greats. If he’s physically able to try satiating that obsession, you better believe that, despite what he’s said over the last two years about accepting his basketball mortality, he’ll give that shot at a sixth ring another go.
Of course, that begs an uncomfortable question: If Kobe continues playing into 2016-17, which team will he be sitting up for? The Lakers are the no-brainer answer on so many levels, but unless they strike gold five times over in free agency next summer, they’re not contending for championships anytime soon.
And if you’re Kobe, why play for a team that won’t give you an opportunity to compete for the individual accolade that projects as the reason you would prolong your career at all?