Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from basketball effective at the end of the 2015-2016 campaign, saying that “this season is all I have left to give.”
In a piece that resembles a free verse poem, Bryant posted his farewell to basketball on ThePlayersTribune.com on Sunday noting that he can’t love basketball obsessively for much longer and that it is time to move on.
The piece, titled “Dear Basketball,” reveals Bryant’s long love affair with the game but reveals that he’s now “ready to let you go.” The piece is written to basketball as if the game was a long-time lover that he’s ready to leave behind.
Bryant’s “Dear John Letter” to basketball begins:
From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:
I fell in love with you.
The piece then goes on to recount how he devoted his early years to develop his basketball craft, noting that he played “through sweat and hurt” because “YOU called me.” And he did all this, he wrote, because “that’s what you do when someone makes you feel as alive as you’ve made me feel.”
But Bryant then says that he just can’t keep up anymore. “But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye,” he said. “And that’s OK.”
“I’m ready to let you go,” Bryant wrote, “I want you to know now so we both can savor every moment we have left together.”
Bryant continued, “The good and the bad, we have given each other all that we have.”
The star ends his love letter to basketball: “Love you always, Kobe.”
Bryant plays in the final year of his contract with the Lakers and at a payout of $25 million he is the highest-paid player in the league. But Bryant has endured a tough few seasons with injuries slowing him down. As ESPN reports, “Bryant is averaging more field goal attempts per game (a team-high 16.7) than points (15.7). His field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage both rank last in the NBA among qualified players.”
The shooting guard spent his whole 20-year NBA career in Los Angeles, earning some of the league’s top honors along the way, including five NBA championships, and MVP award, and 17 selection to the NBA All-Star Game. Bryant even played on two U.S. Olympics teams during his storied career.
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