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Fans react to Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement

Lakers forward Kobe Bryant signs an autograph for a young fan as he walks off the court following a game against the Nets.

Lakers forward Kobe Bryant signs an autograph for a young fan as he walks off the court following a game against the Nets.

(Kathy Kmonicek / Associated Press)
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Kobe Bryant announced that this will be his last season in the NBA in a poem he wrote for the Players’ Tribune that was released hours before Sunday’s game. Some fans bought a ticket and raced to Staples Center as soon as the news broke. Others still hadn’t heard anything when they arrived at the stadium.

Jessie Gonzalez, 25, was perusing social media Sunday when he read that Bryant had announced his retirement. He dropped everything and bought a ticket to Sunday’s game because he was “shocked and upset.”

Gonzalez said he has been a “huge” Lakers fan since he was 6 years old. He was clutching the poem that Bryant had written -- each fan received a hard copy of the poem upon entering Staples Center.

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His plans for it? “Frame it and save it,” he said.

Another fan, Andrew Vasquez, 33, was holding the sealed poem in his hand when a reporter asked him for his thoughts on Bryant. He had no idea about Bryant’s retirement announcement a few hours earlier.

“What? I’m blown away,” Vasquez said.

It was the first Lakers game that Vasquez had attended, though he said he has been a fan throughout his life.

“Kind of sad about it,” Vasquez said.

Steven Ayala, 33, said about the poem: “I’m not going to open it until he officially retires. It makes it more special.”

Estrella Davis, 34, appreciated the fact that Bryant wrote a poem and each fan received a copy. “It’s kind of nice that he acknowledges his fans,” she said.

Troy Hoover, 27, was standing in front of a cardboard cutout of Kobe taking selfies when a reporter approached him.

“So sad, I already dropped a tear,” Hoover said.

Hoover had bought tickets about an hour before the news about Bryant broke.

“It’s very special,” he said about the poem. “I’m going to frame it.”


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