Kobe Bryant signs two-year extension with Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 29:  Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to someone in the crowd during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on October 29, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant’s new deal is very thumbs-up. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant signed a two-year contract extension that all but guarantees he’ll retire as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant, who is close to playing for the first time this season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon last spring, agreed to a $48.5 million deal, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, that will ensure that he is the league’s highest-paid player over that time, Shelburne reported.

“This is a very happy day for Lakers fans and for the Lakers organization,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement released by the team. “We’ve said all along that our priority and hope was to have Kobe finish his career as a Laker, and this should ensure that that happens.

“To play 20 years in the NBA, and to do so with the same team, is unprecedented, and quite an accomplishment. Most importantly however, it assures us that one of the best players in the world will remain a Laker, bringing us excellent play and excitement for years to come.”

Bryant has won five titles with the Lakers, but the deal was still eye-popping.

“God bless Kobe Bryant,” Jeff Van Gundy said with a laugh, when asked on ESPN for his reaction. “Good for him. I don’t know if that’s good for the Lakers from the standpoint of their future flexibility to try to attract free gents to get to the next era of Lakers championship basketball or not, but Kobe Bryant has a very unique will. While others sit out and coddle injuries, Bryant, as you see with this injury, is doing every thing he can to speed up his recovery. I admire the old-school ethos of Kobe Bryant.”

Also on The Early Lead

Derrick Rose out for the season after knee surgery