We’ve seen retirement press conferences. We’ve seen retirement open letters. We’ve seen retirement tweets. On Sunday, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant gave us a first: a retirement poem.
In a piece posted on the Players’ Tribune, Bryant wrote a poem titled “Dear Basketball,” which announces the future Hall of Famer’s intention to retire after the 2015-16 season:
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, 37, will sit down with Robin Roberts of Good Morning Americato further discuss the decision. In the final season of a two-year extension he signed with the Lakers in 2013, Bryant is averaging 15.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game—all numbers that rank among the worst of his career.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Bryant remains “in contention” for a roster spot for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics, per ESPN’s Marc Stein.
“Sad,” head coach Byron Scott told Serena Winters of Lakers Nation after the announcement. “We talked about it last night, as I told him he kinda shocked me when he told me. Sad more than anything.”
Lakers legend Magic Johnson commented on the lasting legacy Bryant will be leaving.
“He’s the closest thing we’ve seen to Michael Jordan,” Johnson said, perJeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports. “He’ll probably go down as the second-greatest scoring guard. You couldn’t stop him. His will to win was incredible and he stayed in the gym like no other.”
Struggling to work his way back into form after a series of injuries over the last few seasons, Bryant is shooting 31.5 percent from the field and 19.5 percent from three-point range this year.
His performance and shot selection have been the source of almost nonstop scorn, especially as the Lakers have struggled their way to a 2-13 start. Some have wondered whether Bryant’s presence is actively detracting from the development of young talent such as Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell, who have each failed to get into a consistent groove despite playing on an otherwise depleted roster.
“I would never, never, never do that,” Scott said when asked if he’d consider benching Bryant, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. “That’s not an option whatsoever. No, that’s not an option.”
While the concept of a legacy season probably isn’t the smartest team-building move, if there is anyone who has earned it, Bryant is that person.
He’s played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, making 17 All-Star teams, 15 All-NBA teams and 12 All-Defensive teams. The Lakers won five championships during his career, with the first three coming in tandem with Shaquille O’Neal and the second run built around Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Planning to stay a Laker for life, Bryant will not pursue an overseas career, per ESPN’s Marc Stein. A global icon who spent a lot of his youth in Italy due to his father’s playing career, there had long been speculation about Bryant possibly finishing his career across the pond.
While he may not play overseas, Bryant has spoken in the past about potentially playing for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics. Bryant has yet to speak on whether those plans have changed in light of Sunday’s decision.
Bryant sits atop the Lakers record book in career points, steals, field goals made and games played, among other categories. Overall, Bryant is third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, having passed Michael Jordan just last season.