Kobe Bryant has been obsessed with basketball all of his life, but once that obsession started waning, he knew the time to walk away was approaching.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar announced over the weekend his plans to retire at the end of this season. Bryant did so in a letter on The Players’ Tribune website, but he recently sat down with Robin Roberts on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to further explain the decision.
“It’s the right time,” Bryant said. “There’s no point in belaboring it or dragging it or saying, “Well, I’ll leave the door open in case, I don’t know, something might change.” I don’t think this is a decision you can allow to have outside influences dictate whether you continue to play.”
Bryant explained he begins every day with silent meditation, which often would be dominated by thoughts of basketball. Lately, however, that hasn’t been the case.
“Normally what happens with me is my mind would always drift toward the game,” he explained. “Always. Then I found myself sitting there, and my mind wouldn’t drift toward the game all the time anymore. That’s when I realized, you know what? It’s getting close. It’s getting close.”
Bryant also revealed that, as a child, his goal was to win eight NBA championships. In his mind, Magic Johnson had five and Michael Jordan had six, so he wanted eight. Bryant had to settle for five (there’s not another one coming, as Tuesday night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers reaffirmed), although he could’ve had seven if not for the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons.
Still, there’s no doubting Bryant’s standing among the all-time greats — to be in the company of players like Johnson, Jordan and Larry Bird is “everything” to him — even if he’s on pace to have by far the worst season of his career.
“You can’t just sit around and expect everyone to give praise all the time,” Bryant told Roberts when asked about criticism of his play this season. “You’ve gotta take good with the bad. One of the most important things I can share with the younger generation is to accept it all. Don’t have any expectations or lean on or rely on positive reporting on your career or negative.”
As to whether he’d beat Jordan in 1-on-1?
“He would win some, I would win some, but those are the debates that would go on forever.”
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images
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