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Lakers GM says Kobe Bryant indicated next season will be his last

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Los Angels Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak indicated on Thursday during an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio that Kobe Bryant has intimated that the 2015-16 NBA season will be his last go-round before he strolls off into the sunset.

“He has indicated to me that this is it,” Kupchak said, via an ESPN report.

Bryant will enter his 20th season this fall at 37 years old and is owed $25 million, a league high, by the Lakers in the final year of his contract with the team. Whether Kupchak would envision a scenario where Bryant would play beyond next season, the Lakers GM couldn’t say.

“I think first and foremost, he’s on the last year of a deal,” Kupchak said. “There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don’t think there will be.”

Bryant has suffered through two injury-plagued seasons, playing in only six games in 2013-14 and 35 last season. How the notion that Bryant’s body may finally be succumbing to Father Time comes into play regarding whether Bryant possibly could come back for 21st season, Kupchak said the team has to take a wait-and-see approach.

“A year from now, if there’s something different to discuss, then it will be discussed then,” he said. “I talk to him from time to time … and he is recovering. He’s running. He’s getting movement and strength in the shoulder. We expect a full recovery, but yeah, he’s much closer to the end than to the beginning.”

Asked if the Lakers will celebrate Bryant’s career with the pomp and circumstance befitting such a great player, Kupchak indicated the uncertainty of Bryant’s future without an official announcement could make that difficult.

“It’s kind of up to the player, if they want to do something like that,” he said. “And it also may take away some options a year from now and put a player in an awkward position, but he will be recognized appropriately with great gratitude when it is time.”

Lakers president Jeanie Buss previously stated, however, that the team will celebrate Bryant’s 20th year in the league next season, so the superstar will likely be honored in some regard. Whether or not it will also simultaneously serve as a tribute to his final season swan song, it appears that will be up to Bryant. And if it is, it will be the culmination of one of the finest careers in NBA history.