Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from basketball with this 52-line poem

“I’ll always be that kid, with the rolled up socks.”
“I’ll always be that kid, with the rolled up socks.”
Image: Reuters/Aly Song
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Kobe Bryant is bidding farewell to basketball—not via a press conference, but in verse.

Today (Nov. 29) the 17-time All-Star and current Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard announced his upcoming retirement on The Players Tribune, a website where athletes publish their written work, in the form of an open letter that is actually a 52-line poem. The 2015-2016 season will mark his twentieth year in the NBA, and his final professional year.

Over the course of his career, Bryant has won five NBA titles, two Olympic gold medals, and became the third-highest scorer in NBA history. He is 37 years old.

Here is Bryant’s full poem:

Dear Basketball,

From the moment

I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

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. 

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always,