Kobe Bryant has decided that 20 NBA seasons is enough.

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Here’s a brief excerpt from what the 37-year-old Bryant posted this today on The Players’ Tribune.

“Dear Basketball,

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.”

Kobe BryantLove him or hate him, Kobe Bryant goes down in history as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.  Bryant came straight out of Lower Merion High School to become the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.  Drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, he was immediately dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers for center (and current Kings GM) Vlade Divac.

With the Lakers, Bryant won 5 NBA Championships, he was elected to the All-Star team 17 times and won an MVP Award in 07′-08′.  He was named 1st team All-NBA 11 times and 1st team All-NBA Defensive Team 9 times.  He also won a pair of Olympic gold medals.

Bryant’s body has begun to fail him over the past few seasons.  He’s ended the last 3 seasons early because of injury and has played in only 41 games over the last two years.

Having played in 12 games this season, Bryant is shooting a career low 31% from the field and just 19% from beyond the arc.

His 32,670 career points is good for third most in the history of the NBA, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36928).  Fourth place is occupied someone you may have heard of, a guy named Jordan.

”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 has wavered over the past few months about his future in basketball.  He hoped he would get healthy and regain a sliver of his old form.  But it wasn’t to be and now a giant is planning on walking away from the game.

Lakers coach Byron Scott had this to say:

”He kind of shocked me when he told me,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott, Bryant’s teammate during the 1996-97 season. ”I’m just sad, more than anything. He’s somebody who I truly care about and have a lot of respect for. It’s always hard when greatness like Kobe decides to hang it up. … I thought he probably had at least another year, but this year isn’t over. We’ve still got a lot of games left, so I know his purpose is to finish out the season.”

Love him or hate him, Kobe Bryant will be missed.

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