Thanks for the Poem, Kobe

It’s hard for me to say something about Kobe that hasn’t already been said. A particularly poignant tribute is by David French for Time, where French recalls bonding with his son throughout Kobe’s career. They watched games together, and even missed homework when Kobe was playing that night. My own experiences watching Kobe play on TV are marred with frustration. I often rooted against him as he made bucket after bucket against a team I favored, like the Wizards, Bulls, Heat, or Suns. He played with passion every night; he was an unstoppable force on the court.

When Kobe retired in 2016, he left this writer and educator a great gift. His first act in his final year as an NBA player wasn’t to hold a massive press conference or to release a formulaic statement.

Instead, he wrote a poem.With grace and poignancy, Kobe Brant embraced a challenging literary art form. “Dear Basketball” was published in The Players’ Tribune in 2015, and it announced Kobe’s final season in the NBA. The poem surprisingly transfixes the reader with its allusions to the man’s past, its illumination of the man’s dedication, and its description of the childlike joy that basketball brings. Kobe, an idol to so many, became a man of letters upon retirement. It’s a priceless legacy to this writer and educator.

Dear Basketball,

From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

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.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have. 

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always,

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