Basketball legend Kobe Bryant announced he intends to retire at the end of the 2015-2016 NBA season on Sunday with a letter to fans and an ode to the sport.
Rather than a press release and media frenzy, the five-time league champion revealed his plans with a poem on The Player’s Tribune, called Dear Basketball. Though it’s clear where he’s going from the beginning, he doesn’t actually say he’s retiring until late in the piece:
“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.”
Though unexpected, Bryant’s approach harkens back to another NBA legend’s curtain call. As SBNation pointed out, Michael Jordan wrote an open letter to basketball just before his retirement. The letter, published in 2003 as a Nike ad in newspapers nationwide, similarly invoked his love of the game and memories of playing as a child.
“I love you, Basketball,” Jordan wrote. “I love everything about you and I always will. My playing days in the NBA are definitely over, but our relationship will never end.”
In addition to the poem, Bryant also wrote a letter specifically for his LA fans who came to watch the Lakers play the Indiana Pacers Sunday. Fans arriving at their seats found a Black envelope waiting on their seats to break the news:
“Whether you view me as a hero or a villain,” the letter said. “please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.”