Leg­end calls it a day

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LOS AN­GE­LES — Kobe Bryant an­nounced Sun­day that this will be his fi­nal sea­son, the vet­eran Los An­ge­les Lak­ers star walk­ing away as one of the great­est leg­ends in NBA his­tory.

The five-time NBA cham­pion, who ranks third in all-time scor­ing with 32,670 points, said in a first-per­son poem on the Play­ers Tribune web­site that “this sea­son is all I have left to give.”

The 37-year-old Bryant spent his en­tire 20-sea­son ca­reer with the Lak­ers, the first NBA player to stay so long with the same club.

But Bryant, a mem­ber of two Olympic gold medal squads, has been nagged by in­juries in re­cent cam­paigns and has strug­gled to find form this sea­son, the Lak­ers be­ing off to a mis­er­able 2-13 start.

“My body knows it’s time to say good­bye,” Bryant said in a poem en­ti­tled “Dear Bas­ket­ball” and meant as a love let­ter to the sport.

Bryant was in­tro­duced to a roar­ing ova­tion Sun­day night when the Lak­ers hosted In­di­ana.

Bryant had each spec­ta­tor Sun­day given a “spe­cial mes­sage” printed on white pa­per and gold let­ter­ing at the top that read, “My love to this city, this team and for each of you will never fade. Thank you for this in­cred­i­ble jour­ney.”

Bryant got off to a slow start Sun­day go­ing 1-for-7 be­fore get­ting his first bas­ket of the game 8:30 into the first quar­ter.

NBA com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver was quick to re­spond to Bryant’s an­nounce­ment, the sig­nal that one of the great­est ca­reers in the his­tory of the sport was end­ing.

“With 17 NBA All-star selections, an NBA MVP (2008), five NBA cham­pi­onships with the Lak­ers, two Olympic gold medals and a re­lent­less work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the great­est play­ers in the his­tory of our game,” Sil­ver said.

“Whether com­pet­ing in the NBA Fi­nals or hoist­ing jump shots af­ter mid­night in an empty gym, Kobe has an un­con­di­tional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s mil­lions of fans around the world in con­grat­u­lat­ing him on an out­stand­ing NBA ca­reer and thank him for so many thrilling mem­o­ries.”

Bryant art­fully crafted his good­bye to the game by hear­ken­ing back to his boy­hood dreams of play­ing in the NBA and shoot­ing bas­kets with socks rolled into a ball.

“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,” Bryant wrote.

“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.”

Lak­ers coach By­ron Scott spoke Satur­day with Bryant about his de­ci­sion.

“I thought he at least had an­other year in him,” Scott said. “It kind of shocked me when he told me. Sad more than any­thing. Some­body I care about, have a lot of re­spect for, it’s al­ways hard when great­ness like Kobe de­cides to hang it up.”

Bar­ring in­jury, Bryant’s fi­nal game would be at home against Utah on April 13. His farewell tour be­gan Tues­day at Philadel­phia, his home­town.

“For him to be able to go around to all th­ese cities and them to be able to ap­pre­ci­ate him for what he has ac­com­plished is great,” Scott said.

It’s a unique sit­u­a­tion for a Lak­ers team that lost iconic cen­tre Shaquille O’neal to a de­par­ture for Mi­ami and past leg­end Magic John­son to his an­nounce­ment that he had the HIV virus.

“We’re all sad,” Lak­ers pres­i­dent Jeanie Buss said. “This era of Lak­ers bas­ket­ball has been one of the most fun, ex­cit­ing pros­per­ous eras we could imag­ine. We’re in full sup­port of him. But it’s still very sad.”

Bryant has av­er­aged 25.4 points, 5.3 re­bounds, 4.8 as­sists and 1.5 steals over 1,280 games.

This sea­son, with the Lak­ers stripped of much of their sup­port­ing cast to bol­ster Bryant, he is av­er­ag­ing 15.7 points, 4.1 re­bounds and 3.4 as­sists.

Bryant ended his poem to bas­ket­ball with­out giv­ing a true hint as to what the fu­ture might hold for him.

“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” — AFP CAPE TOWN — South Africa’s AB de Vil­liers (pic­tured) has been re­placed at the top of the ICC player rank­ings for Test bats­men.

Af­ter scores of 0 and 9 in last week’s 124run de­feat to In­dia in Nag­pur, De Vil­liers on Mon­day slipped to No 3 in the rank­ings.

Aus­tralia cap­tain Steven Smith and Eng­land’s Joe Root have re­gained joint pole po­si­tion on 886 rat­ings points, with De Vil­liers drop­ping to third spot on 877 points.

The South Africa middle-or­der bats­man may trail the duo by nine points, but a strong show­ing in Delhi this week could see him re­gain top billing.

South Africa’s Dale Steyn, who missed South Africa’s last two Tests with a groin in­jury, still leads the Test bowl­ing rank­ings on 884 points, but In­dian spin­ner Ravichan­dran Ash­win has moved into se­cond spot af­ter claim­ing 12 for 98 in a man-of-the-match per­for­mance against South Africa. — News24 LIVERPOOL — Swansea City’s per­for­mance dur­ing their 1-0 loss to Liverpool at An­field on Sun­day proves it is just a mat­ter of time be­fore they get back to win­ning ways, man­ager Garry Monk (pic­tured) has said.

The Swans are 15th on the ta­ble, just four points above the rel­e­ga­tion zone and Monk is un­der pres­sure af­ter a poor run of form that has seen his side win just once in their last 10 Premier League games.

The man­ager felt his team were un­lucky to have con­ceded a 62nd minute penalty against Liverpool — scored by James Mil­ner - and struck a de­fi­ant note when asked if they could be dragged into the rel­e­ga­tion dog­fight.

“There’s never any dan­ger of the team be­ing in a rel­e­ga­tion fight. But of course we need to get points and we need to get points as quickly as pos­si­ble,” Monk told re­porters af­ter the game.

“I felt we de­served more than what we got. It was a very good away per­for­mance against an ex­cel­lent team, but un­for­tu­nately de­ci­sions went against us.

“It was a soft penalty and it was dis­ap­point­ing to lose on a de­ci­sion that was out of our hands.

“I have to give full credit to the play­ers. Ev­ery­one was work­ing well and they are de­ter­mined to get us out of this pe­riod. They were ex­cel­lent to­day. I have no com­plaints over the per­for­mance.”

UP­COM­ING FIX­TURES Dec 5: Stoke v Manch­ester City, Arse­nal v Sun­der­land, Swansea v Le­ices­ter, Manch­ester United v West Ham, Southamp­ton v As­ton Villa, West Brom v Tot­ten­ham, Wat­ford v Nor­wich, Chelsea v Bournemouth.

Dec 6: New­cas­tle v Liverpool. Dec 7: Ever­ton v Crys­tal Palace. — Reuters

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