Los Angeles Lakers superstar shooting guard and five-time champion Kobe Bryant officially announced the 2015-2016 season will be his final in the NBA, via a poem he released on The Players' Tribune. Kobe will retire at the close of his 20th year with the Lakers, officially putting an end date on one of the greatest careers in basketball history. The Lakers final regular season game is Apr. 13, 2016 in Los Angeles against the Utah Jazz, which could be Bryant's final game barring injuries.
Kobe wrote that, "This season is all I have left to give" and "I'm ready to let you go," in the official press release of his announcement. The Players' Tribune servers have crashed since the announcement, but it appears Bryant wrote his goodbye to basketball with a touch of poetry.
Bryant had kept his retirement plans to himself leading up to the announcement, wanting to gauge where the season would take him before making any final decisions. Evidently the 37-year-old has seen enough, and can now proceed with clarity regarding what comes next for both himself and the Lakers franchise.
Here's the entire poem from Kobe Bryant, via The Players' Tribune's official Facebook page:
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,
- Kobe Bryant
This is now officially the end of an era we are witnessing.