LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this has been coming for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck. All that surrounded him was talk of his play and speculation about the future he didn’t want.
Bryant made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”
You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dreamAnd 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 poundingMy mind can handle the grindBut 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 nowSo we both can savor every moment we have left together.The good and the bad.We have given each otherAll that we have.
It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Bryant is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:
“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 will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.
Good on Bryant for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.
Bryant has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.
Ad we’ll all be watching for those flashes of vintage Bryant we have hoped to see more of this season.
This article first appeared on NBCSports.com.