On Sunday, November 29, Kobe Bryant formally announced his retirement, to take place at the end of the 2015-2016 season. This was done via a written poem simply titled “Dear Basketball,” published on The Players’ Tribune website.
As the Los Angeles Lakers were playing that evening, all attendees received a letter from their star titled, “When we first met, I was just a kid.”
Regardless of anyone’s personal love or hate opinion, future NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant is a bonafide legend. Many of today’s younger players have looked up to him, as he had looked up to Michael Jordan.
Reaction to his announcement was as it should be. Following are but a few from the hoops world, which are pretty typical of those found around the web:
“It’s time for u to take it all in… sit back, relax & enjoy all that u have built. Love u lil bro @kobebryant” — Shaquille O’Neal (@Shaq)
“We have lived incredible moments together on and off the court. Thanks for everything brother! @kobebryant #ThankYouKobe” — Pau Gasol (@paugasol)
“Hard to believe @kobebryant is finally going to hang it up. One of the NBA’s great champions. Enjoy the rest of this season my friend.” — Scottie Pippen (@ScottiePippen)
“Cherished every second out there with you @kobebryant !” — Paul George (@Yg_Trece)
“You loved the game @kobebryant and the game loved you back! Proud to know you and honored to have represented the #PurpleandGold together!” — Rick Fox (@RickFox)
Following three injury-plagued years, The Black Mamba’s numbers this season are definitely off from his 25+ point career average. But, there is no denying that there are very few players who have amassed the scope of accomplishments he has been able to achieve over his years with the Lakers. Following are a few of the more significant highlights of his storied career:
* 20 years with the same team (NBA record)
* 17-time All Star (16 as a starter)
* All Star MVP Award four times
* Five-time NBA Champion
* NBA Finals MVP twice
* 3rd on the all-time NBA regular season and post-season scoring lists
* NBA scoring leader twice
* Two-time Olympic Gold Medal Winner
And, in 2006, Bryant set the second highest single-game scoring record by a player with 81 points vs the Toronto Raptors. Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors still holds on to the #1 spot with 100 points in a 1962 game against the New York Knicks.
Enjoy you farewell tour, Kobe, as we have enjoyed your play and absolute dedication to the sport.
Despite anyone else’s personal opinions about the man’s performance and decisions on the basketball court and his balling life and career, I know of no better high-profile role model for youth (and adults) in the sports or entertainment professions than LeBron James.
This multi-award-winning Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was drafted after his unprecedented third selection to the All-USA first team high school hoops squad in 2003. His pro career began and he won Rookie of the Year, showing the world his dedication to the game.
Two years later he established The LeBron James Family Foundation that initially held a bike-a-thon to raise money for various philanthropic activities. The Foundation expanded their bike-a-thon to become the Wheels for Education (WFE) program and include an academic piece. The paid and volunteer staff have assisted hundreds of students achieve a better life, especially through the “I Promise” aspect of the program.
Each year, LeBron and his Foundation select third grade students to become members of WFE. They start their year with a two-week technology camp co-sponsored by the Akron After School program and the Foundation. During the academic year, students receive support, encouragement and whatever intervention is needed. But it doesn’t end there. Assistance continues to their high school graduation.
However, he decided that it did not end there.
Earlier this year, LeBron’s Foundation made the announcement that the University of Akron (UA) and he, through the Foundation, would provide scholarships to as many as 2,300 students to the university beginning in 2021.
That is quite a commitment and says much about the man.
In addition, UA established the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education where UA President Scott Scarborough said, “You can come to LeBron’s college and become a teacher, help kids succeed in life.”
As to the man himself and his relationship to the WFE students … here is an example of a message he sends to them, this portion of one is from Sept 29, 2015, titled “On Time”:
“How has school been going? Is everyone arriving to school and class ON TIME? Remember that’s a big part of our PROMISE. Early is on-time, on-time is late, and late is… you don’t want me to find out you’re late!!!
“It’s very important to me that you are setting the right example for my Wheels for Ed kids. They are looking up to you. If you’re doing the right thing, they’ll do the right thing.
“Continue to set the example for your classmates.
While I am definitely aware of many who do good works, it would be great to see more athletes and celebrities serve others with undertakings of this size and scope.
LeBron James, arguably the most talented player on the court today, maybe even any day, announced his return July 11 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is a good move, for more reasons than one. The way he did it this time is pure class. Let him tell the story (as told to Lee Jenkins at Sports Illustrated). It is well-worth reading.
Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.
Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.
I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. We made sacrifices to keep UD. I loved becoming a big bro to Rio. I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that’s exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys. I’ve talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life. I also want to thank Micky Arison and Pat Riley for giving me an amazing four years.
I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and Riles didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true.
I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.
To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?
I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Walters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.
But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.
In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.
Best of luck, LeBron. It will definitely be a challenge, but you are the man for the job.