Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant announced that the current NBA season will be the final one of his storied career.
“This season is all I have left to give,” writes Bryant on The Players Tribune in a letter he opens directly to the sport itself with the words, “Dear Basketball.”
Bryant is in his 20th season, all with the Lakers since a draft-day trade in 1996 that sent Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in return for a 17-year old kid taken with the 13th overall pick.
Bryant won five NBA titles. He was still playing at an elite level until April 2013 when he tore an Achilles’ tendon. Knee and shoulder injuries have limited Bryant the last two seasons.
“I’m ready to let you go,” he continues. “I want you to know now, so we can both savor every moment we have left together. The good and the bad. We have given each other all we have.”
Bryant, 37, is struggling this season, averaging 15.7 points a game while shooting only 31.5% from the field and 19.5% from three-point range.
The Lakers are in last place in the Western Conference with a 2-13 record.
“You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream, and I’ll always love you for it,” writes Bryant. “But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement regarding Kobe 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.”
The Lakers still have 67 games left to play this season, with the regular-season finale on Apr. 13 at Staples Center against the Utah Jazz.
Coach Byron Scott told reporters before the Lakers’ game this evening against the Pacers that he felt “sad” after Bryant told him of his decision.
“We talked about it last night. As I told him, he kind of shocked me when he told me,” Scott said. “He’s somebody who I truly care about, have a lot of respect for. It’s always hard when greatness like Kobe just decides to hang it up.
“He’ll get a chance to go around to all these NBA cities and they can really show their appreciation for what he has been able to accomplish in this league has been great.”
The Lakers hosted the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night, and Scott said Bryant intended to play, even after playing 34 minutes at Portland on Saturday night.
Scott said it was weird to have that retirement conversation with Bryant.
“It was so matter of fact. And (he) was so at peace. After I thought about it, I felt better about that. It wasn’t like he was agonizing over it. He was just like ‘Yeah, I’m going to announce I’m retiring.’ He just kind of went off from there.”
Bryant is expected to have a press conference after Sunday’s game.
The Lakers leave Monday for an eight-game road trip that opens in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Bryant attended Lower Merion High, just outside of Philadelphia. “It’s home for him. So I think they’ll show their appreciation,” Scott said about fans in Philadelphia.
Scott was asked what he will remember about Bryant. Scott mentored Bryant as a rookie with the Lakers.
“I can (think) all the way back when he was just this young guy out there at the Forum before the lights came on and before practice was two or three hours away. To this point where he still is at the practice facility in (El Segundo) two or three hours before everybody else getting shots up,” Scott said.
Miami guard Dwyane Wade empathized earlier Sunday with Bryant’s struggles on the court.
“It’s tough to see one of the absolute greatest competitors go through this,” Wade told the Associated Press before Bryant made his announcement. “You can put a team around a guy to help a guy, especially late in his career.
“They’re just not in position right now to do that. He’s won five championships, so no one feels bad for him from that standpoint. But from a standpoint of seeing one of this era’s greatest players go out in a rebuilding process, it’s tough.”
On Instagram Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, wrote about his pending retirement: “You can walk away knowing you’ve always played with everything you have, babe. I’m so proud of you. I’m proud of everything you’ve given to all of your fans even when you weren’t feeling your best. You’ve always pushed through it because you played for those fans that sacrificed so much to see you play in person. You mean so much to us all. I’m so excited to see what God has in store for us as a family now that one chapter is closing and new ones are opening. We love you!”
Various players around the league responded to Bryant’s announcement.
Pau Gasol, who won two championships with Bryant, tweeted: “We have lived incredible moments together on and off the court. Thanks for everything brother! @Kobe Bryant #ThankYouKobe”
Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith: “One of the most under appreciated players to ever play is saying goodbye to the game he gave his all!”
Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic: “Thanks for everything to the greatest basketball player of all time Kobe Bryant. The game will never be the same!!”
Pelicans guard Eric Gordon: “Much respect to @Kobe Bryant as he announces his retirement after the season. A fierce competitor and one of the greatest to ever do it!”
After the Lakers’ 107-103 loss to Indiana, Bryant, as he sat down for his post-game news conference, asked: “So...what’s new?”
Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan, left, guards Lakers star Kobe Bryant during the 1998 NBA All-Star Game.(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, right, speaks with Coach Phil Jackson in 2010.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, right, celebrate in the closing seconds of the team’s NBA Championship win over the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant share a laugh before a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Nov. 9, 2010.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, speaks with Coach Byron Scott during a game against the San Antonio Spurs last December.(Eric Gay / Associated Press)
(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant drives to the basket past Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers during a game at Staples Center on Jan. 13, 2015.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, poses for photos with FC Barcelona captain Andrés Iniesta Luján before a training session at the StubHub Stadium in Carson on July 20, 2015.(Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant poses for a photo at the Beverly Hills Hilton on July 18, 2014. Bryant was limited to 35 games during the 2014-15 season because of injury.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant fields questions from reporters surrounding him during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant fields questions from television reporters during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is surrounded by reporters while doing a radio interview during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo.(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant tries to steal the ball from Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried during a game at Staples Center on Nov. 3.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Bryant said he’s completely at peace with his decision to retire. He was smiling, laughing while talking with reporters.
Asked if he might shed a few tears as the end of the season gets closer, Bryant said: “It’s not going to happen on the court.”
Bryant’s advice from Phil Jackson after telling his former coach of his pending retirement: “Break the season up into sections...take it one chunk at a time.”
Bryant said he doesn’t need to be on Team USA at Olympics next year in Brazil but would “be honored” if it happened.
Bryant on playing in his hometown, on Tuesday, as the Lakers start a long road trip: “It’s going to be beautiful. So much of my game was developed in Philadelphia.”
And he joked about being a 37-year-old surrounded by all the youth on the Lakers’ roster: “I feel like their grandfather. I’m like a triple O.G.”
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