(Reuters) - Kobe Bryant, who is retiring after 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of the NBA season, says he has given up on his dream of making a competitive farewell to basketball at this year’s Rio Olympics.
Last month, Bryant told ESPN Radio that he would be very happy to give an encore performance at the 2016 Games, having won gold medals with the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 and 2012.
On Saturday, however, the 37-year-old told reporters that he had changed his mind and that he now intended to bow out in Lakers colors.
“I think it’s the young guys’ turn to play and perform,” Bryant said before the visiting Lakers took on the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win two gold medals so I’ve had my moment.
“I’ll watch from afar, I’ll support from afar and if they want me to come down and speak to the guys, I will, but that’s about it.
“As beautiful as it would be to play for our country, when I say my last game is going to be my last game ... then that’s it. I’m not going to like to walk off the stage ... but I think it’s pretty sweet to have my final game be in a Laker uniform.”
A five-times NBA champion who has appeared in 17 All-Star games, Bryant has done it all on the court and has been attracting huge crowds on the road during his farewell season in the league.
The Lakers are scheduled to play their final game of the regular season against the Jazz on April 13 in Los Angeles.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue