Kobe Bryant to quit basketball at end of season

BASKETBALL legend Kobe Bryant has revealed he will retire at the end of the current season.

Kobe Bryant, pictured during LA Lakers' 111-77 loss to the Golden State Warriors on November 24. Picture: AP

The 37-year-old, who has won the National Basketball Association (NBA) title on five occasions, is calling time on a glittering 20-year career at the end of the current season.

Bryant, who has scored 32,670 points over two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers, is ranked third on the NBA’s all-time list.

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Also a winner of two Olympic gold medals, the 6ft 6in star has been hampered with niggling injuries over the past few seasons, and has struggled to match the form of recent years.

He told the Players’ Tribune in a poem titled ‘Dear Basketball’: “My heart can take the pounding, my mind can handle the grind

“But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”

He added: “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 - the son of former NBA player Joe Bryant - gained plaudits for his high school basketball career, being recognised as the top high school player in the USA.

He was selected in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets, before being traded to the LA Lakers where he was named an all-star in just his second season.

He has averaged over 25 points per game in nearly 1,300 matches.

But this year, the Philadelphia-born player has averaged just 15.7 points a game, with the Lakers having won just two of their 16 matches.

Bryant’s last game will be against Utah Jazz on April 13, unless the Lakers reach the play-offs.

Lakers coach Byron Scott said he was ‘kind of shocked’ when Bryant broke the news, adding: “I’m 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.

“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.”

Lakers president Jeanie Buss said that the team were ‘in full support’ of Bryant, and echoed Scott’s comments, saying: “We’re all sad. This era of Lakers basketball has been one of the most fun, exciting, prosperous eras we could imagine.”