-- Kobe Bryant announced Sunday on the Players' Tribune website that he will retire after this season, saying "this season is all I have left to give."
In a piece entitled "Dear Basketball," the 37-year-old Bryant wrote that the sport of basketball "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," Bryant wrote. "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."
Bryant is struggling through the worst season of his storied 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers and has been plagued by injuries in each of the past five seasons. He entered Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers averaging 15.7 points per game on a career-worst 31.5 shooting percentage.
Bryant is averaging more field goal attempts per game (a team-high 16.7) than points (15.7). His field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage both rank last in the NBA among qualified players.
But despite the rough start to the season, the Lakers have publicly supported Bryant. Lakers coach Byron Scott told ESPN on Friday that he would not bench the 17-time All-Star for his poor play.
The Lakers have 66 games remaining after Sunday, and it will likely turn into a adoration tour of sorts for Bryant, who has already gotten long ovations from normally hostile fans on road trips this season, particularly in places like New York and Miami where crowds sensed that they might be seeing him as an opponent for the final time.
The Lakers' next road game is, perhaps not coincidentally given the timing of Bryant's announcement, on Tuesday in Philadelphia -- his hometown.
Bryant is in the final year of a two-year deal that will pay him $25 million in 2015-16, making him the NBA's highest-paid player this season.
The expiring contract and numerous injuries had led to widespread speculation that Bryant would retire after this season. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has publicly said on multiple occasions that the franchise expected the former league MVP to retire at the end of his current contract.
Bryant was drafted out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick in 1996 but was traded to the Lakers. He helped Los Angeles win five NBA championships and was named the league's MVP in 2008. He currently is third on the NBA's all-time scoring list, behind only Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
Bryant won the dunk contest at All-Star weekend as a rookie, played in the All-Star game for the first time the following year and a star was fast born. The 81 points he scored against Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006, are second only to Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in NBA history, and he's the only player to spend 20 consecutive seasons with the same team.