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KOBE = LAKER FOR LIFE [Apr. 3rd, 2010|11:48 pm]
..::All About Kobe Bryant::..
EL SEGUNDO, California (AP)—Kobe Bryant(notes) is staying with the Los Angeles Lakers for another three years.

The deal announced Friday will begin after next season. Bryant is making $23 million this season and is due to earn $24.8 million next season.

“It’s very rare to have a player play his entire career in one city, so I’m very excited,” he said after the Lakers beat Utah 106-92.

Bryant would earn $27.4 million in 2011-12, $30.2 million the following season and more than $32 million in his final year, when he would be 35.

“Good news,” coach Phil Jackson said. “I expected that Kobe would sign. It’s a good choice for him and the organization.”

The deal means the Lakers achieved two main objectives going into the season — signing Bryant and Pau Gasol(notes) to extensions.

“We were able to accomplish those goals, helping to keep the core of this team intact for the foreseeable future and in turn help to ensure the franchise’s continued success over the years to come,” General manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday on the team’s Web site.

Gasol signed earlier in the season.

The 31-year Bryant could have terminated the last two years of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent last July. He could have secured a new, longer deal if he had opted out, but he wouldn’t have necessarily made more money.

He said he had no thoughts about going elsewhere even while speculation had suggested otherwise.

“I knew I was going to be here,” he said.

Bryant is averaging 27.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists this season. He’s helped the Lakers win four NBA titles, including last season when he was the Finals MVP.

The 12-time All-Star was voted league MVP in 2008 when he helped the U.S. win a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics. This season, he moved past Jerry West to become the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer.

“Good news,” coach Phil Jackson said. “I expected that Kobe would sign. It’s a good choice for him and the organization.”

Jackson said Bryant’s deal has no impact on his own possible extension. Jackson plans to evaluate his future after the season ends, when he’ll have his annual checkup. He turns 65 in September.

“I personally sat down with Phil and indicated I’d love to have him back,” Kupchak said. “It really falls into his lap and his timeline.”

Bryant said he enjoys playing for Jackson and told him Friday that he “would love to see him come back.”