After 20 years playing in the NBA, Kobe Bryant explains why it's the right time for him to retire.
Bryant said it was his 2013 injury, which left him unable to play for close to nine months, that got him thinking about leaving the game. "It was something that kind of evolved over the last three years, you know, with the Achilles injury, that really frightened me," the 37-year-old athlete told Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts. "Because you know, it was like, ‘My career could be over now.’ It scared me. ‘What am I going do next?’ sort of thing. So I took that time to start trying to figure that out."
He also said that his focus has been elsewhere. "I try to have at least 15 minutes of still time and just kind of sit in my thoughts in the morning and just kind of meditate. And normally what happens with me is my mind would always drift to the game. Always," Bryant explained. "And then I found myself sitting there. My mind wouldn't drift towards the game all the time anymore."
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He added, "And that's when I started realizing, 'You know what? It's getting close. It's getting close.' Because now I'm not obsessively thinking about the game anymore. It's not wired into my subconscious the way it used to be."
On Sunday, Bryant revealed that this would be his last season with the Los Angeles Lakers by posting a poem in The Players Tribune. "Dear Basketball," the poem begins. "I'm ready to let you go. I want you to know now so we both can savor every moment we have left together."
During his interview with Roberts, the NBA pro revealed that he hadn't accomplished everything he wanted to do in his basketball career. "No. No. I wanted eight championships, as a dreamy kid, growing up," he said. "I wanted eight."
Bryant said he looked up to Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, Jerry West and Michael Jordan growing up, but was pretty diplomatic when asked who if he could beat Jordan in a one-on-one game. "Oh, he would win some. I would win some," he quipped.
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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.
Watch the video below to hear Kobe himself reflect on the biggest highs and lows of his career: