Los Angeles Lakers president Jim Buss hinted the club would be ready to hold discussions about possibly extending Kobe Bryant’s NBA career when the star’s current contract expires at the end of the 2015-2016 season.
Buss told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published on Friday that Bryant’s history with the Lakers ought to grant him the opportunity to call time on his career on his own terms.
“We’re going to approach it like it is, but that doesn’t mean it is,” Buss said of Bryant’s possible final season in the NBA.
“I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘This is it, Kobe, you’re done,’ because it’s not my decision, it’s his decision.”
Bryant, 37, will earn $25 million this year. He was granted a two-year contract worth $48.5 million in 2013 but has since played only 41 games over two seasons because of knee and shoulder injuries.
Buss hit back at critics of the decision to award Bryant such a generous contract despite his advancing years and injury record.
“The man has done so much for the Lakers and the fans of the Laker nation, he deserves the money,” Buss said.
“I don’t understand anybody trying to break down what I did for him. Let’s break down what he did for us, then say, what is he worth? To me, he’s worth that.”
Asked if he expected this season to be Bryant’s final year with the team, Buss reportedly extended his arms wide open and replied: “My arms are like this.”
“He just has to know, at that age, and that many miles on you, what is your role? We’ll explain the role, and if he still wants to do that and that’s how he wants to go out, that’s fine with me,” Buss said.
Bryant has won five NBA titles with the Lakers, in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.