After the Lakers knocked off the Jazz Friday night at Staples, Kobe Bryant met the media to talk about the three-year contract extension he signed this afternoon that will keep him with the Lakers through the 2013-2014 season. Needless to say, he was in a pretty good mood. (Big team win, massive new deal. What's there to frown about?)
The move wasn't unexpected- if anything the surprise was it took this long to get done- but still was reassuring to Lakers fans and represents a significant moment in Bryant's life with the organization. As Mitch Kupchak said earlier this evening, the extension goes a very long way towards guaranteeing Bryant will finish his career in Los Angeles. Even while saying he didn't expect this to be his last contract in the NBA, Kobe agreed with the basic premise. "Pretty much," he said when asked if he agreed Friday's events meant he'd retire a Laker.
The significance of continuing to build his legacy in L.A. isn't lost on him. "I am really excited to be here," Bryant said. "It is very rare to play your entire career in one city."
More comments from Kobe:
On whether he ever considered other options, or leaving Los Angeles: "No. I certainly didn't. They didn't. So we weren't trippin' on how long it was taking. We knew it was going to get done.
On the significance of having the core together, and if that played into his decision: "Oh sure, it did. There is just one more person I'm waiting on. You can take a guess as to who that is [Phil Jackson]. It's a big part for me as a player. I enjoy playing for him. I made it very clear to him that I would love to see him back."
More from Kobe below...
I asked Kobe if he had a chance to reflect on his career, an entire adulthood spent wearing purple and gold.
"It's really a huge honor. When I walked in today to sign the contract they had a picture on the wall of the first contract I signed when I was 17. I had no facial hair. I can remember the day like it was yesterday. Fast forward to today, it's really a blessing to be in one city."
That rookie contract was co-signed by his parents.
"It had to be. I had to re-sign when I turned 18."
More Q and A:
On the possibility of being considered the greatest Laker of all time when his career is over: "The honor comes in just being part of that conversation. To say that one Laker is the greatest Laker of all time is impossible with all the greats that have played here. I think the challenge I have is making that discussion as interesting as possible. Winning a couple more championships will certainly do that, so hopefully we get that done."
On why it took a while to get the deal done: "I don't know. We're both lazy, I guess," he smiled. "We just weren't pressing for it every single day. We both knew it was goign to get done."
On why it was important the negotiations not play out in the media: "I didn't want it to be a distraction. We got stuff we need to do, and it's an unnecessary distraction. There's no point (in doing it publicly) so we just handled our business behind closed doors."