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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