In an open poem scribed on “The Players’ Tribune,” Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant announced his plans to retire after this season, his 20th in the NBA and a Lakers uniform.
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.
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,
Injuries have abbreviated Bryant’s last three regular season campaigns, starting with the rupturing of his Achilles tendon in the latter part of the 2012-13 season. An injury to his left knee in 2013-14 succeeded the Achilles tear, and last year Bryant was shelved by a torn right rotator cuff.
Bryant’s game has not been the beneficiary of graceful aging, as his numbers this season are simply putrid. Bryant is averaging 15.7 points per game on 31% shooting, he’s putting up a ton of shots and not providing the Lakers with much of anything.
Despite this season’s struggles, Bryant’s career averages are a respectable 25.3 points, 4.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. He’s donned a Lakers uniform his entire career, and has amassed a boatload of accolades throughout his tenure in the Association. Bryant is a five-time NBA champion, the third leading scorer in league history, a two-time gold medalist, an MVP and the only player in league history with 30k points and 6k assists.
Bryant’s farewell tour will begin on the road in Philadelphia on Tuesday as the Lakers will venture to the city where Bryant played his high school ball to take on the winless 76ers. Bryant has never been warmly accepted in the City of Brotherly Love, but with his retirement looming, the reception may be different this time around.
Barring some miraculous turnaround that lands the Lakers in the postseason, Bryant’s last game inside of the Staples Center will take place on April 13th against the Utah Jazz. It’s sure to be quite the affair, as the game will wave forever goodbye to one of its all-time greats.