American basketball icon Kobe Bryant announced his retirement on Sunday (29Nov15).
The Los Angeles Lakers star officially confirmed rumors his current 20th season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) will be his last.
Bryant, 37, revealed the news in a post on The Players' Tribune website, which was launched by another iconic athlete, baseball star Derek Jeter.
Written as a love letter and poem to his favorite sport, the post is titled "Dear basketball," and Bryant begins, "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."
"But I can't love you obsessively for much longer," he continued. "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."
Bryant concludes, "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"
Bryant, who will retire at the end of the Lakers' 2016 season, has been with the Los Angeles team since he was drafted into the NBA in 1996. He is currently in the final year of a two-year deal that includes a $25 million payout, making him the NBA's highest-paid player this season.
He has helped win five NBA championships for the Lakers, is a 17-time All-Star, a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and is a two-time gold medalist from the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympic Games.