Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is set to stay at Staples Center, with the franchise having confirmed that the iconic shooting guard has signed a contract extension.
The future of 35-year-old Bryant, who has has spent the entirety of his seventeen-year career as a Laker after they had traded for him prior to his drafting by the Charlotte Hornets back in 1996, has been subject to much speculation with his previous deal set to expire at the end of the 2013/14 season.
While some had speculated that Bryant could enter free agency, the Lakers have finally ended the constant barrage of rumours by tying the five-time NBA champion down to a new two-year contract.
"This is a very happy day for Lakers fans and for the Lakers organization,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in an official team statement.
“We’ve said all along that our priority and hope was to have Kobe finish his career as a Laker, and this should ensure that that happens. To play 20 years in the NBA, and to do so with the same team, is unprecedented, and quite an accomplishment.
"Most importantly however, it assures us that one of the best players in the world will remain a Laker, bringing us excellent play and excitement for years to come," he added.
While the Lakers themselves did not release any financial details relating to the contract, according to a source cited by ESPN sportswriter Chris Broussard, Bryant's deal is worth a handsome $48 million that will see him remain as the NBA's highest-paid player.
15-time All-Star Bryant is yet to appear for the Lakers so far this season, but is practicing with the team again after stepping up his eagerly-anticipated return from a torn achilles tendon suffered against the Golden State Warriors in April.
In Bryant's absence, the Lakers have gone 7-7 to start the new campaign and return to action against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.