"Finally I just had to accept that I don't want to do this anymore."
And with that, the final chapter of the NBA career of Kobe Bryant, or the final section of the last chapter, or the final subheading of the final section of the final chapter, or whatever, began.
The Los Angeles Lakers star announced his retirement in an op-ed in The Players' Tribune Sunday evening before the Lakers' loss to the Indiana Pacers, and after the game, the Black Mamba held a lengthy and reflective press conference where he looked back on the process behind his decision and how he's feeling about it. Bryant said that once he came to that realization that the drive wasn't there anymore, it became a question of "why not" tell everyone, and "just get it off (his) shoulders."
Bryant shot 4 of 20 from the field, 2 of 7 from 3-point range in the loss to the Pacers. He drained a fadeaway catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to pull the Lakers within one, but after two Paul George free throws, air-balled his next one. The dream ending was not to be, but after the game, Bryant seemed downright happy in the press conference, content with his decision.
"I'm at peace with it, Bryant" said, adding that he's "excited for what's to come."
Instead of balking at the process or denying what's going on, Bryant's usually steely veneer seems softened by the reality that his time is finally up and this will be his final season.
"I've worked so hard, and continue to work really really hard, even though I played like s****, I work really really hard to not play like crap and do everything I possibly can. And I feel good about that."
Bryant revealed that one person he did inform early of this decision was Michael Jordan, who he told this summer.
"[Michael Jordan] was one of the first people I told over the summer. ... [I told him], 'This is it.' [He told me], 'Just enjoy it'." Kobe— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 30, 2015
The fact that Bryant had decided last summer seems confusing, since Byron Scott said he was shocked when Bryant informed him of his decision. So either Scott's lying or Bryant elected to tell Jordan before his teammates. The assumption has been for a while that this would be Bryant's final season, but the actual public announcement locks Bryant into retirement and all the hoopla that will come over the rest of this season as a result. (Unless he goes Brett Favre but you have to think that's unlikely.)
Bryant sounded downright philosophic in his ruminations, talking about how he knew it was time to retire when, during meditation, his mind would no longer drift to basketball.
"There's so much beauty in the pain of this thing," Bryant commented, when asked about the process of coming into this decision. "There's nothing I love more than being able to play this entire season, to go through these tough times, to play in these buildings one last time. I'm looking forward to that."
Bryan's final game of his NBA career will be Wednesday, April 13, vs. the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.