Legendary Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, 37, broke the internet when he announced that the 2015-2016 NBA season will be his last.
Bryant won back-to-back championships with the Lakers in 2009-2010 and was selected the championship MVP both years, but his 20th season in the league has been marred by criticism. His former teammate and friend, Shaquille O’Neal, with whom he three-peated in 2000, 2001 and 2002, said that it was “heartbreaking” to watch Bryant’s decline. The popular show Black-ish even poked fun at Bryant last week, with Rainbow (played by Tracee Ellis Ross) saying that he “sucked” and was bringing the Lakers down.
While Bryant might not take it that far, he does agree that it’s time to tell the game he loves goodbye.
In a poignant poem titled, “Dear Basketball,” Bryant, a 5-time NBA champion and one-time NBA MVP, laid his heart bare as he spoke of his aging body not being able to keep up with his determination and love for the game.
Laker Coach Byron Scott said the news came as a surprise to him.
Scott confirmed that Bryant would finish out the season. A season, no doubt, that will end with a King’s farewell.
Read the poem below, as posted on The Players’ Tribune. Then scroll down for Twitter reaction and Kobe highlights.
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,
Twitter reacts to Kobe’s retirement: