Five-time NBA champion and former MVP Kobe Bryant announced Sunday that he will retire at the end of this season.
The 20-year veteran made his decision public with a published piece in The Player’s Tribune. In the post, which reads like a free-verse poem, Bryant thanked the fans, not just of the Los Angeles Lakers, but basketball fans in general for giving him as much back as he gave to them.
However, the poem also contained Bryant’s personal reasoning behind calling it a career saying, “My heart can take the pounding/My mind can handle the grind/But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”
There is little to argue with Bryant’s self-assessment, as his previous two seasons had been riddled with injuries. He missed the first 19 games of the 2013-2014 season with an Achilles injury, which was followed by a fracture in his left knee which sat him six weeks. This same knee issue kept him out of the final 18 games as well.
Bryant fared little better on that front during the 2014-2015 season. Although he started the first 27 games, inconsistent play led to him being benched for a short time. Then, in January 2015, he tore the rotator cuff in his left shoulder which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
So far, 2015-2016 has not been kind to the veteran either. Though he has started every game so far this season, he is shooting only 31.5 percent from the field, including a 1-for-14 performance against the Golden State Warriors. This has contributed to the Lakers current record of 2-14, worst in the Western Conference.
Those numbers notwithstanding, it is doubtful that NBA fans will look back on Bryant’s Hall of Fame career and think of his final 82 games.
Instead, they will think of him as the 17-time All-Star and the two-time Olympic Gold Medal-winner. They will think of him as the man who hit game-winning shots. They will think of him as a man who called it a career, not when all the pundits said he should, but when he decided it was time.
Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)