How Far Should LA Lakers Go to Keep Kobe Bryant in Purple and Gold Forever?

It's tough to imagine Kobe Bryant wearing anything but the purple and gold of the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA game. Apparently, 17 years full of memorable moments, jaw-dropping performances, All-Star appearances, All-NBA and All-Defensive selections, MVP trophies, and championship triumphs will do that for a player, especially one whose resume resonates alongside those of the all-time greats.

But change isn't out of the ordinary for aging superstars in any sport, much less in basketball. Michael Jordan's last buckets came as a member of the Washington Wizards. Jordan spent his second NBA season next to George Gervin, whose scoring exploits had long been synonymous with the San Antonio Spurs.

Two of Kobe's own foes (Karl Malone and Gary Payton) ended up as his teammates a decade ago. Two others (Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett) changed addresses this past summer.

Bryant will have his own opportunity to try on some different duds come July 1st, 2014, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. All indications currently point to the Lakers and their franchise face working diligently to get a deal done when the time comes to do so.

The consummation of that contract may not be as foregone of a conclusion as you might think, though. As Mike Bresnahan noted in The Los Angeles Times, Kobe and the Lakers have yet to open up negotiations and aren't expected to until after the upcoming campaign.

This is hardly Earth-shattering news in itself. The Lakers would be foolish to bind their future to Bryant's in any significant capacity until they've gotten a good, long look at his present ability. Likewise, Kobe is smart enough to understand that trying to hammer out a new deal now would undercut his own earning potential, since the Lakers' assumption of risk would, in all likelihood, have to exact a toll on his potential salary.

Bryant, for his part, has already made clear his intention to avoid willfully ...

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