It’s official. Kobe Bryant will retire after the current NBA season.
The NBA icon, 37, made the announcement on Sunday (Nov. 29), via an open letter on The Players’ Tribune, saying “this season is all I have left to give.”
In the piece, titled “Dear Basketball,” Kobe wrote in the form of a poem, saying that the sport “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,” he continued. “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”.
He later addressed the media after Sunday’s 107-103 loss to the Indiana Pacers, admitting that he had made the decision some time ago.
“I’ve known for a while,” Bryant said. “A decision like this, you can’t make that decision based on outside circumstances. It has to be an internal decision, and finally I’ve decided to accept that I can’t actually do this anymore, and I’m OK with that.
“It takes a weight off my shoulders and everybody else’s,” he added.
Kobe was drafted out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick in 1996, then was immediately traded to the Lakers, whom he helped win NBA titles in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. He was named the league’s MVP in 2008, and currently sits in third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
Back in January 2006, Kobe scored 81 points in a game against Toronto, putting him behind only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in the NBA history books. He is also the only NBA player to spend 20 consecutive seasons with one team.