Kobe Bryant to retire at the end of the NBA season

‘You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream And I’ll always love you for it’

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers announced Sunday night that he would retire from professional basketball after the completion of the 2015-2016 NBA season, his 20th in the league, bringing to a close one of the most decorated careers in the history of the sport.

Bryant, 37, made his announcement in the form of a short poem titled "Dear Basketball" on The Players' Tribune, a website founded by former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter that publishes first-person narratives from athletes.

In short verses of unadorned language, Bryant recalled falling in love with the game of basketball as a child and growing up as a fan of the Lakers. Bryant wrote: “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.”

Bryant had said on numerous occasions in recent months that this season was very likely to be his last one ? though he always qualified those statements, saying that he could theoretically change his mind. After playing just 41 out of 164 games in the previous two seasons because of a succession of injuries, he has looked like a diminished version of himself this season, producing poor numbers in most statistical categories.


In a statement Sunday night, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Bryant "one of the greatest players in the history of our game." Silver added, "I join Kobe's millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories." Bryant was 17 years old when he was picked 13th overall in the 1996 draft by the Charlotte Hornets, who promptly traded him to the Lakers, the only organization for which he would play in his career.

He has won five NBA titles and two Olympic gold medals, been named to 17 All-Star teams and was voted the league's Most Valuable Player in 2008. He ranks third on the NBA's career scoring list, behind only Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.

For all Bryant’s success, he will leave a somewhat complicated legacy. He will be remembered as one of the best scorers in the history of the game, but he was also known as a difficult and demanding teammate.

In 2003, he was accused of sexual assault in Colorado; he pleaded not guilty, and the charges were eventually dropped. Bryant is in the final year of a two-year contract with the Lakers and will earn $25 million in salary, making him the league’s highest-paid player this season. Even before this formal announcement, Bryant was receiving loud ovations in arenas around the country.

In Brooklyn this month, Bryant joked that he preferred the normal hostility of opposing crowds. He said then that he did not want the season to turn into a prolonged, gushing farewell tour.

But Bryant, after a celebrated career, may not have much of a choice.

(Guardian service)