Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant saw his 2012-13 campaign end under the difficult and depressing circumstances of tearing his Achilles tendon on the final weekend of the regular season. While that injury is a serious setback for any player, it perhaps meant more to the 34-year-old Bryant, who said in October that he might decide to retire when his current contract expires after the 2013-14 season. We simply don't know how much energy he has left, or how willing he is to fight through a lengthy rehabilitation process and return at the top of the game.
However, it appears that this injury might have rekindled Kobe's desire to stay in the NBA for several seasons. In an interview for Brazilian television, he said he can see himself playing three or four more years. From Eric Pincus for the Los Angeles Times:
"I could easily see myself playing another three or four years," he said on Brazilian television in a segment produced by Glenda Carqueijo (2:30 in the video).
The All-Star guard is currently recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon, suffered April 12. He's expected to return to the court by November or December.
Bryant is headed into the final year of his contract and will be 35 before next season. He's confident he'll fully recover from what was a devastating injury.
It should be noted that Kobe doesn't commit to that timetable, just that he sees at as a potential outcome. Nevertheless, it does make sense given what we know of his personality. Throughout his career, Bryant has been committed to staying relevant no matter the cost — he plays through injuries, amends his training in drastic ways, changes his diet, etc. After this injury, it will likely take him more time to return to his pre-tear level, simply because rehabilitation is a long process for even the most committed player. Kobe is as prideful as any NBA star we've seen in the last few decades, and he won't want to leave the league as an injured has-been.
On a more basic level, though, this might have been Kobe's reaction to the Lakers' season even without the Achilles tear. When he made his statements in October about playing through 2013-14, the Lakers looked likely to compete for championships in both this and next season — in other words, Kobe would retire while remaining a relevant figure. After a disappointing Lakers season, Bryant and his teammates have work to do to return to that level — the sort of task that might take as long as three or four seasons. Simply put, Bryant could just want to leave at a time when he feels like everyone will remember him as someone who competed for titles through his entire career. The Lakers might need three or four seasons to get there.