Kobe Bryant is never coming back to professional basketball. According to TMZ, the NBA legend has set the record straight on hopes he might return in the near future.
“I will never come back to the game. Ever,” he told Rich Eisen.
Bryant has found success in other ventures, including winning an Academy Award for his short animated film, Dear Basketball. He also continues to work with projects that aim to get youth into sports. But rumors have been circulating recently that Kobe would return to the Lakers after LeBron James decided to move to L.A. Another option suggested by the rumor mill was Bryant joining Ice Cube’s BIG3 league next season.
As USA Today explains, the rumors surrounding the BIG3 might have started when co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz said during the team’s weekly conference call that he was told Kobe Bryant would be playing the next season from a so-called credible source. However, Bryant’s rep has also told TMZ that the rumors are not true.
The BIG3 league is now approaching the end of its second season. It has attracted many retired basketball greats to play again in the more intimate three-on-three setting, including Allen Iverson, Mike Bibby, Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis, and Amar’e Stoudemire. Adding Bryant, who is first vote-ballot Hall of Famer, would take the league to a higher level of visibility.
Kobe Bryant Says He'll Never Play Pro Basketball Again https://t.co/b1lEvxpJk9
— TMZ (@TMZ) August 25, 2018
“Kobe can play in any league,” Stephen Jackson, a former NBA player and now currently in BIG3, said. “Right now. Kobe, listen. You listening? Can you please come to this league? We need you.”
All signs point to Bryant being serious about not returning to the court after his retirement from professional basketball in 2016. He turned 40 on August 23, and according to SLAM, he says he is now making it his mission to prove that athletes can succeed at more than sports.
“When I retired, everybody was saying, ‘He’s too competitive. He’s not going to know what to do with himself. He’s going to have to come back.’ I took that as a personal challenge of them thinking I’m this one-dimensional person. That all I know is to dribble the ball, shoot the ball, play basketball and compete at that level.
“So I took that as a personal challenge. I will never come back to the game. Ever. I’m here to show people we (athletes) can do much more than that.
“And creating this business, winning an Oscar, and the Emmy and the Annie — those are things that are showing other athletes that come after, ‘No, no, there’s more to this thing.'”