Forecast: Is this Kobe's final season?

August, 25, 2015
Aug 25
8:17
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His 20th NBA season could be his last, but Kobe Bryant isn't ready to make that decision just yet. Neither is Lakers owner Jim Buss, who said on Thursday that he isn't shutting the door on Kobe after this season.

In the meantime, Kobe believes the new-look Los Angeles Lakers will make the playoffs in 2015-16 after missing out the past two seasons -- a franchise first since 1976.

But how much can Kobe contribute at age 37? His past three seasons have all ended early because of injuries, including last season when a torn rotator cuff shelved him in January.

Kobe, who said recently that he feels "extremely strong," plans to wait until after the season to see if he wants to continue playing. So we asked our ESPN Forecast panel to predict whether this season will be it for Kobe. Our voters were nearly split:

While 44 percent of our voters think Kobe will call it a career at season's end, 56 percent predict the Black Mamba will be back for more in 2016-17.

To participate in the discussion, use the Twitter hashtag #ESPNForecast.


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Jim Buss not shutting door on Kobe Bryant's return

August, 28, 2015
Aug 28
12:24
AM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Kobe Bryant and Jim BussGetty ImagesJim Buss says it will be Kobe Bryant's decision on whether he continues his career when his contract runs out after the 2015-16 season.

Given Kobe Bryant's age and injury-riddled past, there is great intrigue about the star guard's health entering this upcoming season, but there is just as much intrigue -- if not more -- about whether it will be Bryant's final season with the Los Angeles Lakers -- or in the NBA.

Though the 37-year-old star guard is entering the final year of his contract, during which he'll be paid a league-high $25 million, Bryant has not said he'll retire at the end of the 2015-16 season, which will be his 20th season with the Lakers.

Instead, Bryant has repeatedly said he'll wait until the end of the season to make any decisions about his future, but his stance hasn't slowed speculation.

"We're going to approach it like it is [his final season], but that doesn't mean it is," Jim Buss, the Lakers' part-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations, told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday.

"I'm not going to sit there and say, 'This is it, Kobe, you're done,' because it's not my decision, it's his decision."

Lakers president Jeanie Buss made similar comments during a July radio appearance with KPCC, saying, "What I've made clear is only Kobe Bryant can decide when Kobe Bryant is done playing basketball. What I do want to stress is that we are celebrating his 20th year with the Lakers, which I don't think you're going to see very often [among players]."

Jeanie Buss added then, "The idea that you stay with one team your entire career is going to change a lot as free agency continues to evolve through collective bargaining. I think this is an opportunity that we have to pay tribute to somebody that has been great for the Lakers, been great for Los Angeles. It's just a nice opportunity to celebrate Kobe Bryant."

Bryant's past three seasons have all been cut short by injury.

Last season, during which the Lakers finished a franchise-worst 21-61, Bryant played only 35 games before suffering a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. The season before, Bryant played just six games because of a fractured kneecap.

The Lakers have been widely criticized for giving Bryant a two-year, $48.5-million extension in 2013 just months after he tore his Achilles’ tendon -- and that criticism has only grown with Bryant playing just 41 games since then.

"The man has done so much for the Lakers and the fans of the Laker nation, he deserves the money," Jim Buss told The Times on Thursday. "I don't understand anybody trying to break down what I did for him. Let's break down what he did for us, then say, what is he worth? To me, he's worth that."

When asked if this was Bryant’s final year with the Lakers, Jim Buss told The Times, "My arms are like this," and reportedly held his arms wide open, suggesting that the Lakers would welcome Bryant back.

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Kobe Bryant makes an appearance on Shaquille O'Neal's podcast, set to be broadcast Monday, and the former teammates address the intense feud that led to their split not long after winning three consecutive championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant and O'Neal were teammates on the Lakers from 1996 to 2004 and won titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. They also reached the NBA Finals together in 2004, when they lost to the Detroit Pistons.

The pair constantly clashed along the way, though, and ultimately split up, with O'Neal being traded to the Miami Heat, with whom he won the 2006 title.

Despite their success together with the Lakers, it is often believed the two could have achieved so much more had Bryant and O'Neal worked out their differences.

In the podcast, "The Big Podcast With Shaq," the two expressed regret over the feud.

"A lot of stuff was said out of the heat of the moment," O'Neal said in an excerpt from the podcast that was played on ESPN Radio on Wednesday. "I guarantee I don't remember a lot of stuff that they said, because I changed my thought process of, you know what, we won three out of four, what the hell are you all talking about? This is not really even a story."

Said Bryant: "Here's the thing, though. When you say it at the time, you actually mean it, and then when you get older you have more perspective, and you're like holy s---. I was an idiot when I was a kid.


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Lakers sign guard Michael Frazier

August, 25, 2015
Aug 25
12:48
PM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Los Angeles Lakers signed undrafted free-agent guard Michael Frazier to a multi-year contract, the team announced Tuesday.

It's expected that Frazier received a partially guaranteed, minimum-salary deal, allowing him at least a chance at earning a roster spot.

The addition of Frazier brings the Lakers' roster total to 16, one more than the regular-season limit. A team is allowed to invite up to 20 players to training camp.

Frazier, 6-foot-4, played three seasons at the University of Florida, averaging 9.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 25.7 minutes per game.

Most recently, Frazier played six games with the Golden State Warriors' summer-league team in Las Vegas, averaging 4.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game.

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The Lakers' Kobe Bryant surprises "Swifties" at the Staples Center to present Taylor Swift with a commemorative banner recognizing her 16 sold-out shows.

The wit, wisdom and words of Kobe

August, 21, 2015
Aug 21
9:57
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Kobe BryantBart Young/NBAE/Getty Images

In honor of Kobe Bryant's 37th birthday, here are 37 quote gems from the Mamba himself:

1. Feb. 18, 2015: "I've shot too much from the time I was 8 years old. But 'too much' is a matter of perspective. Some people thought Mozart had too many notes in his compositions. Let me put it this way: I entertain people who say I shoot too much. I find it very interesting. Going back to Mozart, he responded to critics by saying there were neither too many notes or too few. There were as many as necessary."

2. March 21, 2011: "We don't hang divisions."

3. December 1997: "When I have the chance to guard Michael Jordan, I want to guard him. I want him. It's the ultimate challenge."

4. Upon joining Twitter:

5. March 31, 2014, on Shaq: "It used to drive me crazy that he was so lazy. You got to have the responsibility of working every single day. You can't skate through s--."


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LeBron king no more?

August, 20, 2015
Aug 20
9:30
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Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless discuss a survey in which LeBron James finished third behind Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant among favorite players by NBA rookies.
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Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant had injury-marred seasons to forget in 2014-15, but this year's rookie class still counts the stars of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers as its favorite players.

Durant, at 21.2 percent, won the vote, edging out Bryant, at 18.2 percent, in an annual survey of rookies conducted by NBA.com.

LeBron James finished third at 15.2 percent to complete a top three that was identical to the choices of the 2014 rookie class. Reigning league MVP and NBA champion Stephen Curry finished tied with Dwyane Wade in fourth, each earning 9.1 percent of the vote.

The voting was conducted at the Panini Rookie Photo Shoot at the New York Knicks' practice facility earlier this month.

In addition to being asked questions about their expectations entering the league, the rookies were asked to evaluate their fellow 2015 draftees.

According to the rookies, No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor is No. 1 when it comes to this year's class; the Philadelphia 76ers center was voted most likely to be named rookie of the year and most likely to have the best career.


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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Boozer 6.8
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsV. Blue 1.5
BlocksR. Sacre 0.6