When Kobe Bryant announced his retirement he did not do it by releasing a statement through a publicist or holding a news conference; Kobe Bryant revealed his decision in 52 lines of free verse. “Slam poetry suddenly had new meaning,” wrote Harriet Staff at Poetryfoundation.com.
It was an exciting rare moment in which a poem entered mainstream culture.
“One thought I had initially, without even seeing it, is that it’ll be the most widely disseminated poem of the last decade or in recent history,” said Jane Yeh, a poet and lecturer at the Open University in Milton Keynes, England. “No one reads poetry.”
Poets and writing professors pondered the Bryant poem, and critiqued it when he published it at The Players Tribune, just as they would the work of a peer or student. Many had the same first question: Why? Nick Twemlow, a poet and professor at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said he often poses the question to his own students, who tell him that poetry — in which the rules of language and narrative can be subverted — represents a more comfortable vehicle than prose for expressing exuberant emotion.
“That is how you break up with the love of your life, right?” said David Gordon, a creative writing professor at Pratt Institute. “If you think of someone breaking off a 30-year marriage, they don’t Instagram it.”
by Kobe Byrant
From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
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,
It is also Mikhail Baryshnikov’s birthday today. He is now 72. Bryant was balletic at times in the grace he brought to basketball. Baryshnikov was at times athletic in the grit he brought to ballet.
Here they both are in midair.