Saying Goodbye to a Living Legend: Farewell Kobe Bryant

 Photo from theplayerstribune.com

Photo from theplayerstribune.com

Rhondo Thompson, Staff Writer

Kobe Bean Bryant is a legend in his own right.

Bryant was born on Aug. 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pa. He is the son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. After a short stent in the NBA, “Jellybean” moved his family to Italy in 1984, where he began playing in the Italian League. Growing up in Italy, Bryant excelled in both basketball and soccer.

In 1991, the Bryant's returned to Philadelphia where their son attended Lower Marion High School. There he led his basketball team to four state championships in a row. After his high school career, he decided to forgo college and instead joined the NBA. In 1996, the Charlotte Hornets selected him with the no. 13 pick overall in the draft and he was promptly traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Little did the basketball world know that a legend was in the making.

Bryant went on to become one of the best players since Michael Jordan.

Bryant’s killer play and “attack mode” mentality have earned him a nickname that can only be given to someone with a cold-blooded mindset -- “The Black Mamba”. Black mamba's are the worlds fastest and deadliest snake, a nod to Bryant's basketball prowess. Bryant has gone on to become a five-time NBA champion, League MVP, Finals MVP and All-NBA team, with the list growing annually.

Bryant entered the the 2015-2016 NBA season with 18 years already under his belt. After thousands of games and nearly two decades in the league, the amount of wear and tear on a player’s body is unimaginable.

Due to age, multiple injuries and the feeling of “its time,” Bryant decided that the 2015-16 season will be his last. Younger players and fans around the world are not ready to say good-bye to the legend that is Bryant.

His announcement was made in the form of a letter. Not to a coach, not to a player and not to his fans. The letter was addressed to basketball as a way of saying good bye to the sport he loves the most and always will love. It reads:

Dear Basketball,
From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.
A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.
As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one. 
And so I ran.
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 it’s time to say goodbye.
And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have. 
And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1
Love you always,
Kobe

As one of the greatest and most iconic players to ever dribble a basketball, Bryant will surely be missed.