The news comes as a surprise, but no shock, considering the 37-year-old legend is struggling through the worst season of his 20-year career. The Los Angeles Lakers all-star has suffered injuries during each of the past five seasons. He also is at career-worst levels in terms of points per game and shooting average.
"I can't love you obsessively for much longer," Bryant wrote to the sport. "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."
But despite the many setbacks this season, the Lakers have stood behind Bryant. Coach Byron Scott told ESPN on Friday that he would not bench the 17-time All-Star for his poor play. However, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has publicly said several times that the former league MVP would likely retire at the end of his current contract, a two-year deal that will pay him $25 million in 2015-16, making him the NBA's highest-paid player this season.
Indeed, Bryant's career will be regarded as nothing short of legendary. Drafted out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets, he was soon traded to the Lakers, where he stayed for the duration of his two-decade career and helped lead the team to win five NBA championships. He currently is third on the NBA's all-time scoring list, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
As for his post-NBA plans, it's unlikely coaching is in Bryant's future as it has been for many of his mentors and colleagues. He has said on multiple occasions that when he walks off that court for the final time, he'll stay off it for good.
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