Kobe Bryant drives the lane against the Golden State Warriors. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
The finish line for Kobe Bryant's career may be very near. Or maybe not.
His contract with the Lakers runs through the 2013-14 season, and Bryant suggested in a recent cbssports.com story he might then retire.
After practice Tuesday, reporters asked Bryant if he would only play for two more seasons. "We'll see from year to year where it goes," Bryant said.
What would it take for him to come back for a third year?
"How the hell do I know?" Bryant said. "It's three years from now."
Bryant suggested that playing pro basketball for nearly two decades is a major mental challenge.
"I think it's always the mental part because physically you know what you have to do whether it's a knee injury or an ankle injury, whatever it is, you make those adjustments physically, you change your regimen a little bit, you do physical therapy," Bryant said. "The mentality of preparing year in and year out, it's going on 17 years and every off-season has been more work than the regular season, so it's a lot of work."
Bryant certainly didn't look old on the court Tuesday.
During a five-on-five scrimmage, Bryant scored two consecutive slam dunks. He said that his body has not felt this good since 2006. Then after talking with the media, he returned to the court for some shooting and dribbling drills.
Bryant is widely considered to be one of the best basketball players of all time and has career averages of 25.4 points and 5.3 rebounds -- but he made it clear that he still has unfinished business on the court.
A sixth championship ring.
He thinks that playing alongside Dwight Howard will make that goal much easier to accomplish.
"I think it will make whatever years I have left go substantially easier," Bryant said.
Because playing alongside Howard is fun?
"Yeah and also just from a defensive standpoint," he said. "Defenses in the past have been able to gang up on me and you add Steve [Nash], you add Dwight and obviously we have Pau [Gasol], it should make my life a lot easier."
Bryant said that nothing will distract him from his goal of winning another championship, not even thoughts of retirement.
"I played with Phil [Jackson] and he's gone through it twice now and I saw how he managed it and things like that," Bryant said. "It's just staying in the moment and appreciating each day as it comes and if anything, I think it would be more fun."
Bryant may counting down his NBA playing days, but Lakers Coach Mike Brown isn't about to let his star player walk away.
Brown said he has a plan to keep Bryant in a purple and gold jersey for years to come.
"I might play Kobe three minutes a game, then, because I want him here for five more years," Brown joked. "We'll play him four minutes. We'll give him a minute each quarter and hopefully it stops his retirement from happening for another four years. Then I'll be good."
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