Dear Mr. Bryant,
The day has finally come. After this game, the NBA will never be the same. A day many of us dreaded ever since you announced your plans for retirement in November. But what’s done is done, you’ve made your decision, and we as fans have to respect that.
Now we get to reflect on one of the greatest NBA careers of all-time. Growing up in the 90s, I watched your career blossom from the cocky kid with a chip on his shoulder to the Black Mamba putting fear into opponents with a single stare. The accomplishments you’ve made throughout your career overshadow any negative media coverage you have received, not like I have to tell you about that. Your jersey will soon be forever hanging in the rafters at the Staples Center with other Lakers Legends, but for this fan, 8 and 24 are leaps and bounds greater than any other number retired.
There have been few players to stay with one team for their entire career, and through good times and bad, you stuck with the Los Angeles Lakers when you could have easily left to follow in your mentor’s footsteps. But you wanted the challenge of being great under the lights of Hollywood, and you succeeded. You played with your emotions on your sleeve and had the killer mentality to completely take over a game, even torching Jalen Rose for 81 points in Toronto. You made the Staples Center electric every time you stepped on the hardwood, and you made every away arena shower you in boos, not because they hated you but because they couldn’t claim you as their own.
20 years of greatness have come and gone with what seems like a blink of the eye, but you’ve left us and the game of basketball with too many highlights to enjoy for decades to come. Thank you for 5 Championship Rings, thank you for 2 NBA Finals MVPs, thank you for the ’08 MVP Award, thank you for 2 scoring titles, thank you for 18 All-Star appearances, thank you for 2 Olympic gold medals, thank you for the ’97 dunk contest, thank you for 81 points in the Great White North, thank you for your loyalty to Los Angeles and always bleeding gold and purple, and a finally thank you for what you did for the game of basketball, your determination, your drive, your willingness to win, for that, we will always have a little Mamba in us. Good luck in your final game at the Staples Center, and hopefully you leave us with one more lasting memory!
Your biggest fan
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”