Time Catches Up With Kobe Bryant

By City News Service

Everything eventually wears down … and that apparently includes Kobe Bryant’s body.

Bryant announced Sunday on a website that he will retire at the end of the 2015-16 season … his 20th with the venerated, yet now-struggling franchise.

The 37-year-old Bryant joined the Lakers in 1996 as a 17-year-old straight out of Lower Merion High School in suburban Philadelphia.

Bryant — a 17-time National Basketball Association All-Star and the Lakers’ leading career scorer with more than 32,000 points — made his announcement in the form of a poem on theplayerstribune.com, a website founded by retired New York Yankee baseball great Derek Jeter.

Kobe Bryant during the 2009 Lakers Championship Parade. (EGP photo archive)

Kobe Bryant during the 2009 Lakers Championship Parade. (EGP photo archive)

Bryant wrote:

“…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 its time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.

I’m ready to let you go now

So we can both savor every moment we have left together.

The good and the bad.

We have given each other

All that we have…

Love you always,

Kobe”

Bryant was drafted in the first round by the Charlotte Hornets and traded to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac.

The 6-foot-6 Bryant — son of former NBA and Italian professional league player Joe Bryant — was the first high school guard to be drafted by the NBA.

At age 18 years, 72 days, he became the youngest player to play in the NBA, a record since broken by Jermaine O’Neal and ex-teammate Andrew Bynum.

At 18 years, 158 days, Bryant was the youngest player in an NBA starting lineup. Also in his first season, 1996-97, Bryant became at 18 the youngest player to win the NBA’s All-Star weekend slam dunk contest.

In 2007, at 29 years, 122 days, Bryant became the youngest NBA player to reach 20,000 career points, since surpassed by another NBA legend, LeBron James.

In 2010, at 31 years, 151 days, he was the youngest player to score 25,000 points.

In 2012, at 34 years, 104 days, he was the youngest player to amass 30,00 NBA points.

He entered this season — in which the Lakers have 66 regular season games left — with 32,670 career points.

In January 2006, Bryant scored 81 points in a home win against the Toronto Raptors. It ranks as the second-highest single-game point total for a player in NBA history, behind only the 100 points scored by the Philadelphia Warriors’ Wilt Chamberlain against the New York Knicks in March 1962.

News of Bryant’s pending retirement was not a shock to some Southland sports media figures.

Veteran CBS2 sportscaster Jim Hill called Bryant’s announcement not a time for regret, but “a time for celebration” at what he accomplished in a Laker uniform. Hill said the time is right for Bryant to step down after two decades amid the glare of NBA stardom.

“Nobody beats Father Time,” Hill said.

Laker head coach Byron Scott described shock and sadness as emotions he felt when Bryant — a former teammate — revealed his retirement plans.

“We talked about it last night,” Scott said. “I told him he kind of shocked me when he told me. It’s more sad than anything. I think it’s always hard when greatness like Kobe decides to hang it up.”

A positive aspect of Bryant’s announcement now is he will get a farewell tour across the NBA landscape with a large majority of the season left, according to Scott.

“You get a chance to go around to all these NBA cities and they can show their appreciation for what he’s been able to accomplish in this league,” Scott said.

That tour started in his hometown of Philadelphia, where he was greeted with loud cheers from a usually hostile hometown crowd, only to see the 76ers end their 28-game losing streak with a 103-91 victory over the Lakers.

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December 3, 2015  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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