Kobe Bryant is officially saying farewell to basketball.
The 37-year-old NBA pro wrote a poem about his passion for the sport, which was posted on The Players Tribune Sunday afternoon. The website almost immediately crashed.
In the emotional letter, Bryant announces that after his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, this will be his last.
He notes 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," he continues. "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."
Read the full poem below:
From the moment I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary Game-winning shots
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, Kobe
Bryant, who has been struggling with injuries for the past five seasons, entered Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers averaging 15.7 points per game on a career-worst 31.5 shooting percentage. ESPN reports that Bryant is in the final year of a two-year deal that will pay him $25 million in 2015-16, making him the NBA's highest-paid player this season.
Following Sunday's game, Bryant will hold a press conference to discuss his retirement plans, as reported by L.A.Daily News Lakers beat writer, Mark Medina. All 18,997 fans in attendance of the game will receive a copy of Bryant's "Dear Basketball" letter.
Kobe Bryant will have a press conference tonight after the game to discuss his retirement plans— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 30, 2015
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement over Twitter, calling Bryant "one of the greatest players in the history of our game."
According to the Good Morning America official Twitter, Bryant will also sit down with Robin Roberts to further discuss his decision to retire.
Upon hearing the news, many celebrities, Lakers fans and sports professionals took to social media to express their thoughts on Kobe's departure from the NBA.
To me, it matters not whether @kobebryant is at his best at his career's end. It has been a privilege to watch him play. He's incredible.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) November 29, 2015
Guess he'll keep the 17 million for rest of this wasted season... I would too! https://t.co/yq6MJRZwGV— Doug Ellin (@mrdougellin) November 30, 2015
Shout to @kobebryant on his illustrious career in the NBA! One of the greatest of all time...— Lupe Fiasco (@LupeFiasco) November 30, 2015
Byron Scott on Kobe's decision to retire: "Sad. We talked about it last night. I told him it kind of shocked me when he told me."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 30, 2015
Byron said Kobe was very much at peace with his decision to retire after the season when they talked last night.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 30, 2015
Man I really hope Kobe plays in the 2016 Olympics! The perfect way to end his incredible career. Thanks for everything @kobebryant! RiP DAD!— Quinn Cook (@QCook323) November 30, 2015
Much respect to @kobebryant as he announces his retirement after the season. A fierce competitor and one of the greatest to ever do it!— Eric Gordon (@TheofficialEG10) November 30, 2015
Kobe Bryant, Slam dunk giant, https://t.co/8fZE0HSkm1— Nick Young (@NickSwagyPYoung) November 30, 2015