Los Angeles Lakers talisman Kobe Bryant has ended speculation regarding his future by confirming that he will be calling time on his career after the ongoing season.
Bryant made the announcement in a post titled “Dear Basketball” on the Players' Tribune website on Sunday.
He revealed that basketball “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” before saying “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.”
He added: “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.”
The 37-year-old was picked 13th by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft but was traded to the Lakers where he has set a record for spending the most seasons with one franchise.
Bryant has now entered the 20th season of his illustrious career, and there isn’t much that he hasn’t achieved. He helped the Lakers win NBA titles in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010, and was named the league’s MVP in 2008 and is third on the all-time NBA scoring list with 32,670 points. In addition, Bryant holds the record for the second-best individual performance in an NBA game with 81 points, which he achieved against the Toronto Raptors on January 22, 2006
Bryant’s achievements also go beyond the NBA as he was part of the USA team that won gold at the 2008 Olympics and again at the 2012 Olympic Games.
"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," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "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."
While Bryant will forever be remembered as one of the best players to ever step foot on the court, the veteran is struggling to have an impact offensively this season as he has been averaging 15.7 points on a career-worst 31.5 shooting percentage. Bryant’s current field goal percentage and 19.5 three-point percentage sees him ranked last on the current list of qualified NBA players.