On Nov. 29, 2015, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant formally announced that he would retire at the end of the 2015-2016 NBA season in his poem entitled “Dear Basketball.”
In his poem, Bryant expresses his love for the sport of basketball through all of “the good and the bad” that he has experienced in his career. However, despite his strong passion for the sport, he notes that his body knows it is time to say goodbye.
Currently in his 20th season in the league, Bryant has achieved many great feats such as winning the Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie, five NBA Championships, and an MVP award in 2008.
While Kobe’s stats this season may not be as impressive as they were in previous seasons, the “Black Mamba” is leading all NBA players in the All-Star voting as of Jan. 14 with 1,533,432 votes. The player with the next highest amount is reigning MVP and Finals champion, Stephen Curry with over 300,000 less votes. Having already won four All-Star Game MVP awards, Bryant looks likely to be voted as a starter in what will be his eighteenth and final All-Star Game.
Following the former MVP’s announcement, fans, players and coaches of not only the Lakers and NBA, but of basketball everywhere, thanked and congratulated Bryant for all that he has accomplished in his legendary career.
On Monday, Dec. 28, the Lakers faced off against the Charlotte Hornets in Kobe’s final away match-up against the team who drafted him 20 years ago. While this seemed like just another game, the pre-game introductions would prove otherwise. After four of the Lakers starters were announced, a special one awaited the Mamba. Just before Bryant was introduced, a video appeared on the big screen, and on that video was none other than the chairman of the Hornets, the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan.
In Jordan’s video, he pays tribute to the Lakers guard by stating that he has “been a big help to the game of basketball,” but the message goes farther than just the game. The former Chicago Bulls star goes on to refer to Bryant as a little brother to him as they, “communicate all the time.” Jordan then concludes by reminding Kobe to have fun and enjoy his final season.
A few weeks later, on Jan. 14, the Lakers were in Oakland for what would be Bryant’s final game in the city. Prior to the game, yet another Hall of Famer would pay his tribute to “Vino.” This time, it was the Warriors Executive Board Member and one-time Lakers superstar, Jerry West.
West, who was a major factor in bringing Bryant to Los Angeles on a last-minute draft-day trade with the Charlotte Hornets, provided a heart-felt message for the Lakers guard for his last time playing in Oracle Arena. In addition to commending Bryant for his incredible twenty year career with the Lakers, West states: “I was fortunate enough to be, frankly, like a father to him for the first couple years in Los Angeles.”
Three days later, in a loss against the Houston Rockets, Kobe would pass former Laker icon West on the Lakers’ career assist list. Bryant now only trails former Lakers point guard, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, on the franchise list.
More than half-way through the final season of his career, Kobe still has a large number of final away games to play, and most likely, a great deal of memorable tributes.
Bryant will play the final game of his career in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 13, against the Utah Jazz on ESPN.