Kobe Bryant Writes Poem to Announce Retirement from NBA

If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.

by Melissa Ragsdale

Yesterday, NBA star Kobe Bryant announced that this season will be his last through a self-authored poem. The poem, titled “Dear Basketball,” was published on the athlete-run site The Players’ Tribune and hard copies were given out at the Staples Center during the Lakers v. Indiana Pacers game. While this has been a turbulent and injury-laden season for Bryant, the Lakers star has had a remarkable career spanning 20 years and numerous awards.

“Dear Basketball” is Bryant’s love letter to the sport, beginning with his first experiences as a six-year-old “shooting imaginary/Game-winning shots.” Written in free-verse, the ode is a testament to how much of himself Bryant has given to the sport. He describes his experience playing basketball as one of opportunity and forward motion, saying ‘I never saw the end of the tunnel./ I only saw myself/Running out of one.”

In the middle of the poem, Bryant says his farewell:

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.

Especially in a world where professional athletes are so often type-cast as inarticulate, Bryant’s decision to announce through poetry is a refreshing reminder of poetry as a universal power of expression. “Dear Basketball” demonstrates the form’s unique ability to capture seemingly-elusive feelings and bring them to tangible life.

You can find the full text of the poem here.

More Like This

Hot Vinyasa Flow for Crushing Self-Doubt

"Corpse Pose" and "Sun Salutation," two poems by Dobby Gibson

Jan 11 - Dobby Gibson

“The Queen’s Gambit” Is a Sports Drama

The Netflix show both embodies and subverts a genre more typically associated with games like football and hockey

Dec 2 - Manuel Betancourt

9 Books to Read If You’re Missing Olympic Gymnastics

A reading list for when you’re watching “Athlete A” or rewinds of Nadia Comaneci

Jul 22 - Jae-Yeon Yoo
Thank You!