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Kobe: 'If you asked me today, this would be my last year'

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Now playing in his 20th NBA season at the ripe age of 37, Kobe Bryant has given the Los Angeles Lakers franchise everything in his mind, body, and soul since being acquired by the team following the 1996 NBA Draft.

Feeling the wear and tear of a legendary career, "The Black Mamba" could be coming to the realization that the pain and discomfort he experiences on a regular basis may no longer be worth going through to continue playing basketball.

The thought of retiring certainly crept into his head Saturday following practice.

"If you asked me today, this would be my last year," Bryant said, according to ESPN's Baxter Holmes. "But you never know. We'll keep it open. Whatever happens, happens."

Bryant recently affirmed that he has zero interest playing for anyone other than the Lakers, dubbing himself a "Laker for life." But these young, rebuilding Lakers are not like the championship teams of his glory years. Los Angeles currently owns a 1-4 record, and earned their first victory of the young 2015-16 campaign on Friday in a 104-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

On a team not projected to come anywhere close to a playoff berth, it's reasonable to believe Bryant - regardless of his devotion to the Lakers organization - may indeed be leaning towards retiring at the end of the year. His two-year, $48.5-million contract extension expires at the end of the season.

The five-time NBA champion had both knees wrapped in ice, and his right shoulder - which he went under the knife to repair, costing him all but 35 games last season - in a cooling device. At times, according to Holmes, Bryant will evaluate his situation, and ask himself, "Do I really want to do this anymore?"

If he does decide to stick around for another year, Bryant isn't worried about having to go through the lengthy process that helps him recover between outings, a routine that includes icing, stretching, and massages.

"If I wanted to keep playing, I could figure it out," Bryant said. "Absolutely."

Bryant is currently averaging 16.2 points on 32.1 percent shooting from the field, and 21.1 percent from behind the arc in 28.5 minutes per game, which are all well below his career numbers.

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