On Sunday, longtime Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant announced that this will be his final season. Bryant told the world via a poem titled “Dear Basketball,” which appeared on Derek Jeter’s website, The Players’ Tribune.
In “Dear Basketball” Kobe Bryant says he can’t love basketball obsessively for much longer.
This won’t surprise people who’ve followed Kobe and the Lakers down the diminished years.
“This season is all I have left to give,” Bryant says. “My body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”
I have no idea why Kobe Bryant decided to arrange his goodbye to basketball on the page as a poem, but I have to say I admire his courage in doing so.
“And that’s OK,” he graciously concedes. Bryant and basketball have, he says, “given each other all we have.”
Perhaps you can imagine a tear trickling down basketball’s orange and dimpled cheek. If so, you have a better imagination than I do.
The poem makes no mention of the fortune Kobe Bryant has earned. The championships don’t come up. The poem begins and ends with the image of Bryant as child, rolling up his father’s tube socks and tossing them into a garbage can as he counts down the seconds to an imaginary, game-ending buzzer.
Maybe a lot of young basketball fans will read “Dear Basketball.” Perhaps some of them will suddenly understand that personification stuff that harried English teacher has been banging on about.
“Oh, yeah,” the kids might say. “Kobe’s making basketball a person he can talk to. I get it.”
Maybe they’ll also get it that Kobe Bryant has started and ended what he has to say with the little kid rolling up the socks and tossing them at the garbage can, and they’ll appreciate that starting and ending in the same place is the sort of thing some poets and song writers do.
“As a six-year-old boy,” Kobe Bryant wrote, “I never saw the end of the tunnel. I only saw myself running out of one.”
“Not necessarily a literal tunnel,” that tired English teacher might say. But Kobe Bryant’s young readers will know the tunnel. They’ve seen him run out of it and into the delirious noise that he heard when he was playing well for some very good teams.
If some of Kobe’s readers can imagine a tunnel beyond that tunnel in the arena, great.
If some of them get that it doesn’t occur to any six-year-old that stuff ends, more power to them.
I have no idea why Kobe Bryant decided to arrange his goodbye to basketball on the page as a poem, but I have to say I admire his courage in doing so. Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone. Or if you want to avoid the cliché, don’t talk about that.
But imagine most poets trying to toss one up from three-point land. Not necessarily a pretty sight, is it. Probably better that a basketball player took a shot at a poem.