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Lakers Forward Kobe Bryant To Retire At The End Of The Season

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're also tracking this news - Kobe Bryant has written a letter. It's addressed "Dear Basketball." It's a poem, actually. In it, one of pro basketball's greatest players says he is retiring. This season will be his last of 20.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: You said you've always dreamed of winning a championship. Is it what you dreamed of?

KOBE BRYANT: Oh, it's everything and more. I mean, you have the Laker colors falling from the ceiling and fans going crazy. I got the hat on and everything covering my 'fro. It feels great.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

That's Kobe Bryant after winning his first NBA championship with the LA Lakers. He won five in all. He once scored 81 points in a single game.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: This would be 18 for 20 from the line. And an 81-point - this crowd for number eight, Kobe Bryant.

WERTHEIMER: Bryant was also much criticized. He was once charged with sexual assault. A criminal case was dropped after an out-of-court settlement. Former teammates said he was selfish on the court, though he described himself as a perfectionist.

INSKEEP: Bryant's retirement poem "Dear Basketball" includes these lines - (reading) I'm ready to let you go. I want you to know now, so we can both savor every moment we have left together.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KOBE BRYANT")

YUNG CADDI: (Singing) We lose weight, we keep them things flying. She say I'm ballin', baby. They call me Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant. She say I'm ballin', baby. They call me Kobe Bryant. We lose weight, we keep them things flyin'. She say I'm ballin', baby. They call me Kobe Bryant. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.