"If something changes I'll come back and play next season," Bryant told Mike Krzyzewski on the Duke coach's Sirius XM radio show. "If something doesn't change this is it for me."
What could change is unknown, but Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers are 2-9, good for the second-worst record in the Western Conference. The team has no current ability to rapidly upgrade the talent on its roster, so if this is Bryant's last year, his legendary career will almost assuredly end without a final playoff appearance.
While it's been widely assumed this season - Bryant's 20th - is his NBA swan song, he's previously left the door open on continuing his playing days.
"If you asked me today, this would be my last year," Bryant said earlier this month. "But you never know. We'll keep it open. Whatever happens, happens."
Bryant's two-year, $49-million contract expires at the end of the season. While nobody can completely rule out Bryant wearing a different uniform, he has said he's a "Laker for life."
While he eschewed the idea of a Derek Jeter-like farewell tour a year ago, there's been a fair amount of reflection as Bryant has arrived in cities like New York and Dallas, perhaps for the final time as a player.
Father Time is clearly showing on Bryant's legs as well, as the 17-time All-Star is shooting a career-low 33.6 percent from the floor - something he has openly lamented as he attempts to play more than 35 games for the first time since the 2012-13 season.