On the eve of the NBA’s All-Star weekend, one of the league’s biggest stars has his long-term deal with Nike expire.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ star center, who has been a fan favorite for his on-court prowess, signed a two-year extension on Friday with Nike that will keep him in the league until 2022.
The extension will keep Bryant on the team through 2020 and allow him to continue playing as he tries to build on a career year in 2017-18.
“The extension is very much about keeping him here,” Lakers president and CEO Jeanie Buss said.
“He’s been an all-star, and we’re proud of his accomplishments, but this is about the team and winning championships.
He’s very much an integral part of this team and this franchise, and this extension is a testament to that.”
Bryant is the Lakers’ leading scorer this season with 20.9 points per game, and has become a fan-favorite in his hometown of Cleveland.
Bryant is also one of many NBA stars who will have to choose between a lucrative contract extension and a longer contract.
“I think you need to be realistic and realize that there are a lot of players that are going to be here until the end of the century,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” show.
“And that’s going to make it very difficult to extend a player like Kobe.”
Kupchaka said Bryant was the league MVP last season, but also acknowledged the superstar’s dominance during the regular season.
“It’s just about trying to get through the season as quickly as possible, to see if you can make the playoffs,” Kupcha said.
Bryants career has been plagued by injuries, which he has attributed to being the league leader in missed shots per game (17.8), and the Lakers are trying to avoid a repeat of last season when he was hurt in the fourth quarter of the team’s first loss.
Bryant missed nine games in 2017 and has missed the last seven of this season.
The Lakers lost to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs in the 2017-19 season.
Kupcha also said the Lakers would be hesitant to extend Bryant until 2021.
Bryant has two more years left on his contract.