Although Bryant returned in time for the start of the 2015-16 NBA season, he personally struggled alongside his young Lakers teammates. In November 2015, he announced that he would retire at the end of the season. “This season is all I have left to give,” he wrote on The Players’ Tribune website. “My heart can take the pounding. My mind can handle the grind but my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”
The announcement drew a strong reaction, particularly from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game,” Silver said in a statement. “Whether competing in the finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.”
On April 13, 2016, Bryant dazzled a sold-out crowd at the Staples Center and fans everywhere in the last game of his career, scoring 60 points and leading the Lakers to a win against the Utah Jazz. It was Bryant’s sixth 60-point game of his career.
After the game, Bryant spoke to the crowd. “I can’t believe how fast 20 years went by,” he said. “This is absolutely crazy … and to be standing at center court with you guys, my teammates behind me, appreciating the journey that we’ve been on — we’ve been through our ups, been through our downs. I think the most important part is we all stayed together throughout.”
An all-star lineup of Laker icons also payed tribute to Bryant, including Shaquille O’Neal, Phil Jackson, Paul Gasol, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom and Magic Johnson. “We are here to celebrate greatness for 20 years,” Johnson said. “Excellence for 20 years. Kobe Bryant has never cheated the game, never cheated us as the fans. He has played through injury, he has played hurt. And we have five championship banners to show for it.”
Sexual Assault Charge
In July 2003, he was charged with one count of sexual assault on a 19-year-old female hotel worker in Colorado. Bryant said he was guilty of adultery, but innocent of the rape charge. The case against Bryant was dismissed in 2004, and he settled the civil lawsuit filed by the hotel worker against him out of court.