‘Laker for life’ Kobe Bryant says he won’t sign elsewhere
No matter what happens to Kobe Bryant over the next several months, he offered one guarantee Friday.
He won’t sign with a more championship-ready team when his contract expires next summer.
“I’m a Laker for life. I’m not playing anywhere else, no matter what,” he said Saturday. “It’s just not going to happen.”
Bryant is starting to hit NBA arenas one last time, maybe, spending Friday night at Barclays Center as the Lakers beat the Brooklyn Nets, 104-98.
He didn’t shoot well, scoring 18 points on five-for-16 accuracy, but you could sense something slightly emotional in him. This might be his last basketball weekend in New York, the Lakers playing the Knicks on Sunday.
One last possible trip to Madison Square Garden has gone through his mind, undeniably.
Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell and center Roy Hibbert (17) celebrate during a game against the Brooklyn Nets on on Nov. 6.(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson (6) attempts a basket against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets’ Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (24) and Jarrett Jack (2) defend against Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson (6) on Friday.(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson, left, drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets’ Brook Lopez (11) on Friday.(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (24) and D’Angelo Russell (1) talk during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Brooklyn Nets’ Thomas Robinson fight for the ball on Friday.(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins, left, argues with referee Jason Phillips duirng the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets’ Brook Lopez, right, and Los Angeles Lakers’ Tarik Black run after the loose ball on Friday.(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant tries to drive against Nets forward Joe Johnson during a game on Nov. 6.(Kathy Kmonicek / Associated Press)
“Oh, of course. Absolutely,” he said. “Is it a little different this time around? Yeah.”
Bryant lit up the Garden plenty of times over the years, most famously a 61-point outburst in 2009 that set a record there at the time. (Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony eventually topped him with 62 points last year against Charlotte.)
Bryant makes $25 million in the last year of his contract and hasn’t committed to coming back next season. Even he can’t tell the future, he contends.
He definitely doesn’t want scoreboard video tributes or high-end designer gifts as he makes his way through NBA cities.
“Don’t do that. No. No,” he said, practically cringing at the concept of a farewell tour.
He has something else in mind, his own offering of what he’d like from opposing fans.
“I’d rather enjoy the hostility. That’s why I love going on the road,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always enjoyed throughout my career, is that road hostility. That’s showing respect for what I’ve done.”
Bryant genuinely covets the role of sinister on-court heartbreaker. At the same time, he showed a softer side when detailing his approach to Sunday’s game.
“Try to appreciate as much as you can,” he said. “But it still goes by in a flash.”
It was a brief insight into Bryant. And then it was gone. Just the way he’d want it.
World Peace again
Metta World Peace logged his first playing time in his NBA comeback, totaling three points and three rebounds in 17 minutes against Brooklyn.
He made a three-pointer from the side and blocked Jarrett Jack’s shot out of bounds.
“I’m not going to lie. It all felt good,” said World Peace, who did not play in the league last season.
His contract does not become guaranteed until early January.
It wasn’t a great beginning for rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. — three fouls in his first seven NBA minutes.
He calmed down, though, and finished with six points and five rebounds.
Nance, drafted 27th overall, connected on two midrange baseline jump shots but had a fourth-quarter dunk attempt blocked by Brook Lopez.
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