“This season is all I have left to give.” Bryant wrote in the essay. “My heart can take the pounding. My mind can handle the grind. But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”
Bryant is currently in his 20th season with the Lakers. The five-time NBA champion is struggling in his final year, averaging under 16 points per game on 31.1% shooting. The Lakers are 2–13 and in last place in the Western Conference.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement Sunday night regarding Bryant’s retirement.
“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game. Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game. 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 taken in the first round of the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets and immediately dealt to the Lakers. He won three championships with Shaquille O'Neal from 2000–02, and then led Los Angeles to back-to-back titles in ’09–10.
You can read his full statement below:
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,
For his career, Bryant has averaged 25.3 points, 4.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. He will do an exclusive sit-down interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, the show announced. His statement also resembles Michael Jordan’s open letter to basketball announcing his retirement 12 years ago.
Lakers coach and former teammate Byron Scott spoke to the media before their home game against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
Byron Scott on Kobe's decision to retire: "Sad. We talked about it last night. I told him it kind of shocked me when he told me."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 30, 2015
Byron on Kobe: "I think he still loves this game. He still has a passion for it. He’s still a competitive young man."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 30, 2015
Byron remembers an 18-year-old Kobe telling him he wants to be the best: "I saw that come to light for a long period of time."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 30, 2015
Fans attending Sunday’s game received a copy of Bryant’s letter.
- Rohan Nadkarni