By Jean-Paul Salamanca ( | First Posted: Oct 11, 2012 11:14 AM EDT

Questions abound for Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, seen here driving around Oklahoma City Thunder's Thabo Sefolosha during the NBA Western Conference playoff last season, after he hinted at retirement after his contract expires in 2014 earlier this week.
(Photo : Reuters)

Will he stay or will he go?

That is the question asked these days regarding Kobe Bryant's NBA future.

According to the recent news reports during the course of this week, it appears that the Los Angeles Lakers superstar and likely first-ballot Hall of Famer is leaning towards calling it a career after his contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 season.

Bryant, 34, in a post-practice interview with this week at the Lakers in El Segundo, Calif., said that it was likely that his storied career-which netted him five NBA titles, the 2008 league MVP award and 14 All-Star appearances, and that's just the short list-will conclude in 2014, which will be Bryant's 18th season in the league.

While he prefaced his words with a cautious "One can never be too sure," Bryant told in the next sentence that it was very unlikely he would play beyond 2014.

 "It's just that three more years seems like a really long time to continue to stay at a high, high level of training and preparation and health," Bryant said. "That's a lot of years. For a guard? That's a lot of years."

While he has dealt with several minor injuries in recent years, Bryant-known as the "Black Mamba" for his constantly lethal prowess on the basketball court-has averaged well at least 37 minutes and 27.0 points per game in the last five seasons including 38.5 minutes and 27.9 points per game last season, according to his statistics at the NBA's official web site.

But while the effectiveness of one of the league's most recognizable faces hasn't diminished, the CBS interview has led to a slew of questions from sports writers and fans on whether Bryant-who has played with the Lakers since they drafted him in 1996 as a 17 year-old standout out of Lower Merrion High School in Philadelphia, Pa.-will actually hang up his gold-and-purple No.24 jersey for good after 2014.

"I said when I was 17 that I'd be done when I was 35. It shouldn't be anything new," Bryant told ESPN after the interview came out. "It's inevitable. It's gotta come. I'm not going to play 25 years."

However, it appears that at the moment, the Lakers' superstar guard is focusing his attention on the upcoming season, when he'll be sharing the court with fellow Laker Pau Gasol and newly acquired stars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in a year where title expectations are higher than ever in Tinseltown.

"Our timing with one another gets better by the day and DH is good to go on full contact," Bryant posted Wednesday on his Facebook page. "I'm tired and sore but that kind of pain feels good especially when you know what's at stake."

And regarding the speculation on his possible retirement?

"As far as retirement, I'm not sure how many years I have left but know this: IF and When I announce my retirement, I will do so directly to you first," he posted. "Let's focus on getting this season taken care of. It should be a fun one. I feel strong, light and quick. I can't wait till Oct 31. It's on. Mamba out[.]"

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