Basketball great Kobe Bryant has announced he will retire at the end of the current NBA season.
The Los Angeles Lakers star wrote a poem on Players Tribune announcing his decision. "This season is all I have left to give," the 37-year-old wrote. The website crashed shortly after he made the posting, but has since come back online.
One stanza of the ode, directed at basketball itself, explains why it's "time to say goodbye":
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.
Bryant, who has played for the Lakers for two decades, is a 17-time All-Star and was the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points at the age of 34 — a feat that will see him retire at third on the NBA's all-time scoring list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone, and just ahead of Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan.
Although Bryant's laundry-list of career achievements, including five NBA titles with the Lakers, two Finals MVP Awards and two Olympic gold medals with Team USA, have cemented his status as an all-time great, his last few seasons have been injury-plagued and forgettable. The aging superstar is currently averaging 15.7 points per game along with 3.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds — among the lowest of his storied career — after playing only 53 games over the last three seasons due to injuries to his knee, shoulder and Achilles tendon.
Bryant will sit down with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts for an in-depth interview about his retirement, the show announced on Twitter. He also penned a separate, open letter to fans of the team where he has spent a record 20 seasons.
"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," he wrote.
Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, hailed Bryant as "one of the greatest players in the history of our game." Lakers coach Bryant Scott said he was "shocked" at the player's decision:
The Lakers will look to break a five-game losing streak and slightly improve their 2-13 record this season when they take on the Indiana Pacers Sunday night, soon after Bryant's announcement.