Lakers Rumors: Kobe Bryant to Spend His Final Playing Days in Europe?

As if Kobe Bryant fans all over America are not already hard-pressed with the idea that Bryant's career may be coming to an end, a new story has surfaced that Bryant's playing days in the NBA could in fact be even more short-lived as he contemplates a journey to Europe.

Per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Asked about the possibility of playing a season in Europe, Bryant told Yahoo! Sports: "It would be natural for me to go do it. It wouldn't be a stretch at all. I grew up here."

"You'd have to look at the market and what's going on in terms of the level of basketball being played," Bryant said. "I understand there's a high level of competitive basketball in Turkey now. They might have the best league in Europe. Spain has obviously been one of the top leagues for a long time.

"And Italy is a place that's dear in my heart, I grew up there, but the level is not where it used to be. When I was growing up over there, that was the best league in Europe."

During the lockout last season, Bryant heavily considered several overseas teams to play with and was eventually headed to China on a $2 million deal until the China Basketball Association passed a rule forbidding its teams to sign NBA players with existing contracts (via Yahoo! Sports).

While it has always been safe to expect the unexpected with Kobe, this news certainly drives home a point that Bryant's playing days are nearing wit's end. 

To only make matters worse for adoring fans, Kobe's career could realistically end in 2014 when his current contract expires. If not for Bryant's openness to playing overseas, the chances of him remaining in the NBA would be dramatically higher.

As a child, Kobe was raised in Italy and watched his father, Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant, participate in professional leagues. It was during that time that he developed his fondness and love for Europe and basketball....

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