Kobe Bryant’s storied career has ultimately and graciously come to an end. One of the best basketball players of all time announced his retirement Sunday in a poem, professing his love for basketball. Read the full story and the poem after the jump.

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Kobe Bryant announced on The Players’ Tribune, that this season will be his final for his legendary 20 season professional basketball career. Bryant is the only player in history to show his loyalty to a team by playing 20 consecutive years with them.

In his poem titled “Dear Basketball”, Bryant wrote that the sport of basketball-

“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.”

Bryant has been plagued by unfortunate injuries back to back during his last five years playing ball. This Sunday he recorded his worst shooting performance of his career, tallying a 31.5 shooting percentage and averaging 15.7 points against the Indiana Pacers. The Lakers staff and coach have continued to support Bryant through his struggling, but have decided to not bench the 17-time All-Star from game-time.

Bryant’s in the final year of a two-year contract set to pay him $25 million in the 2015-16 season, making him the NBA’s highest-paid player of the season.

There are 66 games left in Bryant’s career, the next game set to be in Philadelphia – fatefully his hometown.

Kobe Bryant was drafted straight outta high school to the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 as the 13th overall pick, but was drafted to the Los Angeles Lakers (great choice Charlotte).

The future 5-time champion went on to not only win the Lakers another 5 rings, but he won the dunk contest at All-Star weekend as a rookie, played the All-Star game for the first time the following season, and quickly showed the world what they’ve been missing.

On Jan. 22, 2006, he scored a near-record game against the Toronto Raptors with 81 points, right behind legend Wilt Chamberlain who scored 100 points in a single game.

In 2008, he won the MVP award for the league’s season and is currently third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, only behind Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.

Kobe will be remembered not only as the Black Mamba, but one of the best ever to grace the basketball court, a 17-time All Star, a 5-time NBA Champion, an NBA MVP, twice an Olympic-gold medalist, and a 32,000 career point scorer.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had this to say about Kobe’s retirement:

“Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game. Whether competing in the 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.”

Kobe Bryant’s Retirement Poem:

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,