The question at first made Kobe Bryant fidget, cross his legs and move his head, before he seemingly became at ease with his answer.
“Everybody is wondering when is the end?” Ahmad Rashad asked Bryant during their one-hour interview session on NBA TV Monday night.
The question was broached because Bryant has had his third consecutive season cut short because of an injury, the Lakers’ perennial All-Star guard going down this time with season-ending rotator-cuff surgery on his right shoulder.
Bryant is 36 and now he faces another grueling rehabilitation process if he wants to play a 20th season in the NBA, something he has maintained he will do.
He is due to make $25 million next season, but Bryant knows the end has to come at some time.
“I wonder too,” Bryant responded during the show, billed as “Kobe: The Interview.” “I wonder too. When do you know?”
Bryant paused for a few seconds. Then he smiled and laughed.
“When the end comes, I’m fine with that,” he said toward the end of the show. “I’m not afraid of change. I’m not afraid of evolving. I’m not afraid of it.”
There were moments when Bryant was defiant despite admitting injuries and age have robbed him of some of the athleticism he once had.
The five-time NBA champion tore his Achilles’ tendon in April 2013, forcing him to miss the final two regular-season games and the playoffs.
He returned last season, but was forced to shut it down because of a fractured left knee, having played in just six games.
Bryant played in 35 games this season, averaging 22.3 points (despite a career-low 37.3% field-goal percentage), 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
“So for me to look at where I am now and to say I don’t have the physical ability that I had back then, [it] doesn’t mean I still can’t be a dominant or great player, because there have been plenty of players in the league who haven’t had that speed or that athleticism but still have been able to dominate,” Bryant said on the show. “So why can’t I?”
During the interview, Bryant talked about how his post-surgery rehab was going and how he hopes to be ready for the Lakers’ training camp in September.
“I can’t say it is the end,” Bryant said. “I thought the Spurs were done 20 years ago. Those guys are still winning. So, to answer the question, I can’t say this is the end of my era because I thought their [era] was done and they’re still there. So I’m hoping I can have the same rebirth.”