Clock Is Ticking for LA Lakers to Find Kobe Bryant’s Superstar Successor

Kobe Bryant's competitive fire will never burn out, but we're nearing the day when he'll have to pass the torch to the next keeper of the flame for the Los Angeles Lakers.

It may not seem like Bryant is approaching the end of his career. Forget the mileage and the years and the ongoing incursion into the history books (most missed shots ever, anyone?): Bryant is playing like a guy who doesn't look anywhere close to calling it quits.

But we know there's an expiration date on his NBA career, because he told us so himself.

According to Sam Amick of USA Today:

'Nah, not really,' [Bryant] said with a grin and a shake of the head when asked if he can envision playing beyond his current contract. 'But I'm so loyal to this organization, there's not a chance (of him leaving)…I've been really fortunate to win a lot of games here, a lot of championships here. You can't (expletive) with (that).'

Kobe's contract runs through next season, at which point the Lakers will be officially out of the strange limbo phase they're currently mired in. Rebuilding will start fresh, and the Bryant era—all two decades of it—will be finished.

Of course, injury could put an abrupt coda on things much sooner than that. But we'll operate as though L.A.'s changing of the Hall of Fame guard will happen in the summer of 2016.

With that in mind, the Lakers need to be thinking about who'll run the show after Bryant's reign concludes. They failed to secure Dwight Howard to an extension in 2013, then whiffed on obligatory swings at Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and just about every other big name on the market this year.

Bryant's presence on the roster (and his massive $48.5 million in cap-crushing salary over the next two years) may very well have had something to do with the lack of outside superstar interest. But the rest of L.A.'s bare-bones roster probably didn't help...

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