Kobe Bryant Retires After 20 Years: “Dear Basketball…”

kobebryantKobe Bryant, who helped the L.A. Lakers win five NBA championships over his 20-year career, announced Sunday on The Players’ Tribune website that he will retire after this season, writing that “this season is all I have left to give.”

Even with injury after injury, the scoring champion and team leader kept coming back, but not this time. In a first-person story titled “Dear Basketball,” the 37-year-old wrote in the form of a poem that tells the sport what and how he really feels. Fans arriving at Staples Center on Sunday received a letter from Bryant in a black envelope embossed with gold.

kobe bryant
Dear Basketball,

From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always,
Kobe

kobe2Bryant’s decision is not totally unexpected, given that he has said many times in recent weeks that he has considering making this season his last. After two decades, two Olympic gold medals, five championship rings, 17 All-Star selections, an 81-point game that ranks as the second-best in NBA history and more than 32,000 points, Bryant’s career is officially winding down. Kobe Bryant is one of just four players in NBA history with…