After two decades, two Olympic gold medals, five championship rings, 17 All-Star selections, an 81-point game that ranks as the second-best in NBA history and more than 32,000 points, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers announced Sunday night that he would retire from professional basketball after the completion of his 20th season in the league, 2015-2016 N.B.A. season.
The 37-year-old Bryant made his announcement in the form of a short poem entitled “Dear Basketball” on The Players’ Tribune, a website founded by the former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter that publishes first-person narratives from athletes.
In the poem, Bryant said:
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.
Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement regarding Bryant’s announcement:
“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 is in the final year of a two-year deal that will pay him $25 million in 2015-16 and makes him the NBA’s highest-paid player this season.