Kobe Bryant wants to play for team USA in the 2016 Olympics according to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, but the 20-year veteran will only take part in the summer games being held in Rio de Janeiro under his own terms.
"[Bryant] also mentioned to me in a private conversation that if he had his druthers, he would love to ride off into the sunset playing one more time and winning the gold medal," Colangelo shared on Thursday after USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas. "And that would be the end [of Bryant's career]."
Entering his 20th season in the NBA, Bryant does not appear close to a sixth NBA title with a young Los Angeles Lakers roster that needs time to develop. For one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, going out with a gold medal would fit better than going out by missing the playoffs or losing in the first round.
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Colangelo stated, "(Bryant) was very quick to say, 'But, I don't want a spot. I need to earn the spot. I need to be capable of playing at that level to be considered.' And I said, 'You got that. That's always there for you, Kobe.'"
As the young Laker kids develop, Los Angeles does not necessarily expect to be competing at the levels Bryant is accustomed to. The end goal of proving that he is still worthy and able to stay healthy enough to make the 12-man 2016 Olympics roster could serve as the added motivation that keeps Bryant engaged even if the season is lost entering the final months.
Of course, Bryant refuses to officially state that his 20th season in the NBA will be his final year, but one would find it hard to imagine the lifelong Laker returning to the negotiating table, especially considering the problems his salary has caused and how the past three seasons have all ended in major injuries.
For Bryant, finishing with a victory and his third gold medal would be a fitting conclusion to a fantastic career.