LOS ANGELES, CA –Kobe Bryant announced he was retiring, lost to the previously winless Philadelphia 76ers, then dropped 31 on the Washington Wizards, all in the span of a whirlwind week. While each of those is noteworthy in its own way, the retirement of one of the game’s greatest is what will be remembered from the 2015-2016 season, no matter what happens hereon out.
Bryant made the announcement in poem form, (found here in its entirety).
“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.”
The five time NBA champion and former MVP has suffered serious knee, achilles, and rotator cuff injuries in the past few seasons, the severity of which have hampered his aging body from performing at the high level fans–and he–grew so accustomed to in his 20 year career.
There’s been an outpouring of love for Bryant post-announcement, with numerous sports figures citing him as an inspiration and a childhood hero, including notable NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
James spoke of his reverence for Kobe as a youth, how he wanted to be just like him. Then as a fellow NBA player, he emphasized how he knew he had to continue to grow his game and improve because somewhere out there, in some other gym, that’s what Kobe was doing.
Durant called Kobe “(one of) the greatest of all time”, calling him “neck-and-neck with Jordan” when it came to skill. He also touted Kobe’s intensity and supreme confidence on the basketball court.
Kobe’s legacy as a player will continue to live even after his retirement. His game and stardom begat and affected younger stars like James and Durant as he took over as the face of the sport upon Michael Jordan’s retirement. With a nature both articulate and intense, combined with his high basketball IQ and championship pedigree, Bryant undoubtedly has a career in coaching should he be interested. For now, his focus will remain on helping the Lakers improve their 3-19 record.