On Sunday night, Kobe Bryant, the NBA great and longtime Los Angeles Laker, announced (via poem) that this season would be his last in professional basketball. Here’s part of the newsworthy stanza from “Dear Basketball,” perhaps the first piece of free verse (sorry, W.S. Merwin) to ever crash a website:
You gave a 6-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.
Speaking on Sunday, following the Lakers’ sixth consecutive loss, Bryant explained his mind had started to drift away from basketball during meditation sessions. He also thanked his various “muses” for giving him advice on retirement as he wraps a brilliant career across 20 seasons.
But don’t let all these feelings fool you. Bryant’s retirement is neither the upshot of mindful clarity nor is it a result of his resignation with his team’s profound lousiness. It is because of his fundamental inability to play basketball anymore.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.
The 37-year-old Bryant has battled injuries much of the past few seasons. This year in particular, the former two-time scoring champion is finding that his legendary jump shot is failing him and his vaunted ability to drive the lane has betrayed him. Bryant is shooting a career-worst 31.5 percent from the field.