LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant had a season to forget last year.
After missing the first 19 games due to a torn achilles he returned only to fracture his knee six games into his comeback, ending his season.
However the injury plagued star was speaking at the Lakers media day yesterday and said seeing Derek Jeter have a fairytale ending to his career, gave him the desire for the same.
Don't worry Lakers fans, he also said he didn't see that day coming anytime soon!
"The biggest key for anybody in retirement is you always want to retire by choice," Bryant told Yahoo Sports. "Hopefully, I will be fortunate enough to have that option. You don't want to see another catastrophic injury or something like that. When you walk away, you want to feel like you walked away on your terms."
Ready to go
On his return from injury Bryant said he was feeling good and he hopes to play in the Lakers pre-season opener against Denver on Monday:
"It's a pretty tough injury," Bryant said. "I'm not going to lie. There are a lot of things that go through your mind when something like that happens. But I just went on my grind, just kind of chipped away at it day by day. I feel pretty good as a result."
Kobe is 36 years old and heading into his 19th season in the league. He has two years left on his current deal that will see him pocket a cool $23.5 million this year and $25 million next year. He will be 38 when his contract is up but he does envisage himself playing on - as long as his body holds up:
"Whether I do or not, we'll have to see that two years from now," Bryant said. "I don't know, but I could [play longer]. Physically, I don't see an end to the tunnel."
'Far from retired'
Assistant Coach Mark Madsen has been impressed with Bryant over the summer and at the team scrimmages. Madsen says he saw the 'old Kobe' and doesn't see him calling time on his career any time soon:
"I think Kobe can play two to four more years," said Madsen. "I saw him play this summer. He looked great. Kobe looked strong. He had a couple game-winners in the scrimmages."
So Kobe is raring to go but fans must remember that he is 36 and has lost his explosiveness over the years. He - along with Steve Nash - has to be managed well and head coach Byron Scott acknowledged and also shares the opinion of his assistant that the "Black Mamba" has plenty left in his locker:
"I expect him to play 82 games and play well," Scott said. "He is a guy that is going to still average 23, 24 points per game. Our biggest thing is making sure he stays healthy and keeping his minutes to a minimum where he can play 82 games. I've had a chance to sit and talk to Kobe. I had a chance to see him work out. I had a chance to see him play five-on-five. He's far from retired."