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Kobe Bryant says he will retire at end of season

Bryant has decided to retire after this season, ending his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers

Published: Updated:

Kobe Bryant has decided to retire after this season, ending his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 37-year-old Bryant made the announcement in a post on The Players’ Tribune on Sunday, writing a poem titled “Dear Basketball.”

“My heart can take the pounding. My mind can handle the grind. But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye,” wrote Bryant, the third-leading scorer in NBA history. “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.”

Bryant went straight from high school in suburban Philadelphia to the Lakers in 1996, and he earned five championship rings and 17 All-Star selections during two decades with the franchise — the longest tenure with one team in NBA history. The top scorer in Lakers history also won two Olympic gold medals.

But Bryant’s last three seasons have ended early due to injuries, and he played in only 41 games over the previous two years. He has struggled mightily in the first 15 games of this season with mostly young teammates on a rebuilding roster, making a career-worst 32 percent of his shots and dealing with pain and exhaustion every day.

The Lakers (2-13) hosted the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night, and fans arriving at Staples Center received a letter from Bryant in a black envelope embossed with gold.

“What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you,” Bryant wrote. “I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold. I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season. My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade. Thank you for this incredible journey.”

Bryant is the NBA’s highest-paid player this season with a $25 million salary bestowed on him by grateful Lakers owner Jim Buss despite his recent injury problems.