After 20 years in the game, Kobe Bryant has officially announced his retirement via a letter published on Derek Jeter’s digital magazine, The Player’s Tribune. Easily one of the game’s greatest players of all time, the past few seasons have taken their toll on the Los Angeles legend, as he’s been sidelined on and off due to a succession of injuries.

Throughout his two-decade-long career, number 24 won five NBA titles and two Olympic gold medals, while being named to 17 All-Star teams. He was also voted the league’s MVP in 2008 and ranks third on the NBA’s career scoring list, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.

Read the letter-cum-poem in full below and pick up our 10th issue featuring Bryant himself on the cover. Afterwards, check out 5 numbers that defined his career.

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,
Kobe

  • Photographer: Neil Bedford
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