“No matter how (the season) ends, I think Timmy is going to look at (retirement) again,” Popovich told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “And if you ask me, my guess is that he’ll go for another one because he has been so consistent this season. It’s just consistent stuff: another double-double, over and over and over again. Because of that, I think in his mind that if it continues through the rest of the year, I think he’ll say, ‘I’m going to go another year and see what happens.’ Because what he has told me is that the minute he feels like he’s a hindrance to his team or he’s not on the positive end or helping him, he’s going to walk right off the court. It might be during the third quarter of a game. He’s not going to hang on to finish a contract or make the money or have the notoriety that you know he doesn’t give a (expletive) about. So the way he’s playing now, he’s going to look in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, I’m doing all right.’ ”
November 30, 2015 | 7:33 am EST Update
The 37-year-old Bryant recounted the story Sunday when he publicly announced he would be retiring at the end of this season, his 20th in the NBA. “[Jordan] is actually one of the first people that I told over the summer,” Bryant said Sunday. “We’ve been in frequent contact.”
Still, to most the contest itself was rather inconsequential. In fact, just one question at Bryant’s postgame presser was about the game itself. Instead, everybody wanted to know about the five-time champion suddenly declaring the end of a legendary career. “I’ve known for awhile,” Bryant said. “I’ve always said that if anything changes, it’ll change my mind. The problem is: What does that really mean? You can’t make that decision based on outside circumstances. … Finally I just had to accept the fact that I don’t want to do this anymore, and I’m OK with that.” For now, though, Bryant focuses on finishing out his career, rather than worrying about the unknown that will follow. “I think that question becomes a lot easier to answer when training camp comes around next year and I’m not there,” he said. “I think that question becomes easier to answer. Right now, I honestly feel really at peace with it.”
For two decades of his NBA career — in reality, much longer than that — basketball had been Kobe’s obsession. It drove his every decision, his every action. But even that had begun to change. He regularly meditates (thanks, Phil Jackson) and it was there he started to realize what was happening. “Sitting in meditation for me, my mind starts drifting, and it always drifted to basketball. Always. And it doesn’t do that anymore,” Kobe said. “It does that sometimes, it doesn’t do that all the time. That was the first indicator that this game was not something I can obsess over much longer.”
Yet, despite the rough start to the season, the Lakers have publicly supported Bryant. Scott, who told ESPN on Friday that he would not bench Bryant for his poor play, said Sunday that Bryant seemed calm when informing him of his decision. “It was so matter of fact and it was so at peace, which, after I thought about it, I felt better about that,” Scott said. “It wasn’t like he was agonizing over it or anything. He was just like, ‘Yeah, I’m announcing I’m retiring.’ He just kind of went on from there.”
On why he thinks now was the right time for Bryant to do this: Kupchak: We didn’t make it easier for him with the group we have on the court, and that’s not to say they’re not a talented group of players. But they’re certainly young and unaccomplished. And at an advanced age, I think we witnessed that it’s difficult to play this game. He’s certainly struggled to play at a tempo and pace that I think younger players and the game is playing today. I think under a certain system with motivation to contend, it might have been different. Maybe he wouldn’t be as frustrated — I shouldn’t use the word “frustrated,” because I don’t know if he is frustrated or not. I don’t think the game would be as hard for him as it appears it’s been for the last month.