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Kobe Bryant: “I’m a Laker for life”

One of the popular “Kobe Bryant leaves the Lakers” theories out there is that next summer Kobe will sign with the New York Knicks to reunite with Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher for a triangle offense reunion tour. Because Kobe is going to leave a struggling, rebuilding team on one coast for a struggling, rebuilding team on another coast. Whatever, that’s one of the theories out there.

Kobe and the Lakers were in Brooklyn picking up their first win of the season Friday night when he was asked about Jackson’s previous comments Kobe would play beyond this season, and he took the chance once again to shoot down the idea he would leave the Lakers, as reported by Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

“I’ve said it so many times. I’m here, I’m a Laker for life,” Bryant said Friday night after his team’s 104-98 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. “I’m not playing anywhere else, no matter what. It’s just not going to happen. I bleed purple and gold, and that’s just how it’s going to be.”

I don’t know if Kobe is going to retire after this season or come back for another tour of duty, but I believe him when he says he wouldn’t leave the Lakers. It’s simply about branding — part of Kobe’s brand is being one of the greatest Lakers of all time. Kobe learned from the Michael Jordan Wizards years; he doesn’t want to repeat that.

This was also Kobe trying to cut off this discussion — and the Knicks talk — before the Lakers head to Madison Square Garden for a game Sunday.

So far this season Kobe is averaging 16.2 points per game but is shooting just 32.1 percent doing it. He doesn’t have the same elevation when he shoots, he’s not getting the same separation from defenders — which is to be expected for a 37-year-old coming off knee and Achilles surgeries. Kobe just hasn’t adjusted his game to those new realities, and he’s been frustrated. All of which has me still in the camp that he retires at the end of this season, but Kobe doesn’t even know yet what he is going to do come April when the Lakers’ season ends, so all the rest of us can do is just speculate.