This article originally appeared on TheShadowLeague.com and was written by Alejandro Danois on November 30, 2015.
Last night in Los Angeles, the Lakers’ 107-103 loss to the Indiana Pacers was the secondary story behind the contents of a black envelope that was handed to every fan that entered the Staples Center.
Simultaneously, his Dear John letter to the game of basketball went up on the Player’s Tribune website, nearly crashing the interwebs in the process.
And so, the inevitable has come to fruition. It’s that moment that we all knew was soon coming.
Kobe Bryant is taking his final NBA lap.
Whether you’ve loved or despised him, now is not the time to mockingly joke that his skills retired three years ago, to debate whether he was better than LeBron, whether playing alongside Shaq overinflated his legend or where he stands in the pantheon of all-time Laker greats.
As he says in his poem, Dear Basketball, it’s time to simply “… savor every moment we have left together.â€
The clock on his remarkable career is now finite, and despite the woeful state of the 2-14 Lakers and Kobe’s own diminished skills, the remainder of this season will be filled with a sad tinge of exhilaration and nostalgia.
“I’ve known for a while,â€ Bryant said at last night’s postgame press conference, regarding his decision to retire after this, his 20th NBA season. “A decision like this, you can’t make that decision based on outside circumstances. It has to be an internal decision, and finally I’ve decided to accept that I can’t actually do this anymore, and I’m OK with that. It takes a weight off my shoulders and everybody else’s.â€
This is not a story simply about Los Angeles, about the NBA, about basketball. Kobe Bryant had long-ago exceeded those parameters. His worldwide celebrity, his fascinating grip on international cultures from China to Italy, from Brazil to Brooklyn is, in and of itself, a fantastic testament to what he’s achieved through the game, while transcending it in a way that very few have.
His career is defined by much more than his one MVP trophy and five championships. To simply sum up the beauty and majesty of what he’s accomplished, his otherworldly talents, how he made our lives better with his physical gifts and his insatiable appetite for greatness on a nightly basis, we have to go back to 1996.
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Alejandro Danois is a Senior Writer and Editor with The Shadow League. The former Senior Editor of Bounce Magazine, he is also a Freelance Sports and Entertainment Writer whose work has been published by the New York Times, Sporting News, Baltimore Sun, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, SLAMonline and Ebony Magazine, among many others. Follow him on twitter @alidanois.