Kobe Bryant announced his retirement at the end of the season via an open letter to basketball, posted at The Players Tribune. It was a poignant way for one of the NBA's greatest players to tell the world that he's hanging it up.
You know who also chose an open letter to basketball to signal his retirement? Michael Jordan. On April 20, 2003, Nike took out a full-page ad in several Sunday newspapers across the country with a letter purportedly written by MJ. He wasn't announcing his retirement -- he'd done that much earlier in the year, and in fact, he'd already played his last game -- but the letter was his final goodbye.
Jordan's full letter is no longer available -- just news articles with excerpts and a message board posting with the text to the article and a now-dead link to Nike's website.
But Kobe's goodbye message is pretty similar to Jordan's. Here's the beginning of Kobe's letter:
From the moment
I started rolling my dad's tube socks
And shooting imaginary
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:
I fell in love with you.
It's been almost 28 years since the first day we met. 28 years since I saw you in the back of our garage. 28 years since my parents introduced us.
If someone would have told me then, what would become of us, I'm not sure I would have believed them. I barely remembered your name.
Both of them treated their relationship with the sport like a relationship with a real human. Kobe:
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.
I know I'm not the only one who loves you. I know you have loved many before me and will love many after me. But, I also know what we had was unique. It was special. So as our relationship changes yet again, as all relationships do, one thing is for sure. I love you, Basketball. I love everything about you and I always will. My playing days in the NBA are definitely over, but our relationship will never end.
Bryant is a well-known student of Jordan's game and career. I find it rather improbable that Bryant would plan out a farewell message with no idea that Jordan had previously done the same thing.
(Credit to Adam Mares for being the first person we saw who remembered MJ's letter.)
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SB Nation presents: The time Kobe asked a 10-year-old for advice