The day has come. The guy affectionately known as the “Black Mamba” announced his retirement. In a touching letter titled “Dear Basketball” posted on The Players Tribune, Kobe Bean Bryant beautifully talked about his love affair with the game of basketball and officially let the world know that this will be his last year playing basketball.
Whether you loved or hated him, Kobe gave the game everything he had to give. We hated his arrogance and learned to admire his hard knock approach. We booed him and cheered for him, but ultimately, we learned to respect him. He earned it – he deserved it.
In Kobe’s words:
From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:
I fell in love with you.
A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.
As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.
And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.
I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.
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.
And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.
And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1
Love you always,
Photo Credit: Vanessa Bryant Instagram (@VanessaBryant)
Kobe also let fans know how much they meant to him in a letter titled “When we first met I was just a kid.” For those fans lucky enough to be in attendance at the Staples Center to see the Lakers take on the Pacers, they received a letter from Kobe inside a sealed black envelope that read:
Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.
But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.
You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.
Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.
You witnessed my fears morph into strength.
Your rejection taught me courage.
Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.
What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.
I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.
I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.
My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.
Thank you for this incredible journey.
Say what you want about this guy, but Kobe has grown in front of our eyes to become more than just a basketball player. He’s become a humble and classy man.