Ross Kelly, CBS Local Sports

During the first month of his 20th season in the NBA, we’ve heard hints and indications that Kobe Bryant would retire at season’s end. But it wasn’t until Sunday when the Black Mamba made it official. Kobe Bryant announced on the Players Tribune that he will retire at the end of the season.

A true artist of his craft, Bryant penned a letter titled ‘Dear Basketball‘ to announce his decision to retire. Bryant has been a shell of his former MVP-self and he knows, and admits, that his body simply can’t perform up to his usual standards:

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

It was clear to anyone who’s watched Kobe play this season that he just can’t physically do it anymore. As Michael Jordan once said when he was 50 years old and was asked about playing current NBA players, “Mentally, I can kick their butts but physically they have the advantage.” With all of the mileage on Kobe’s legs from entering the NBA at 18 and with all of those playoff runs; he’s about 50 years old in basketball years compared to his younger counterparts.

As the famous saying goes: “Father Time is undefeated.” Michael found that out with the Wizards and Kobe is just realizing that this season.

It’s not just apparent to the fans that Kobe is done, opposing players see it as well. A recent article by the LA Times had some scathing reviews of Kobe’s play from current and former players. One player described Kobe’s play this year as ‘disgusting‘ and other younger players were saddened by how much he had deteriorated from what they watched on TV while growing up.

However, most will remember him for the brilliance he exhibited for most of his career. He may not be on the same level as Jordan, or even LeBron; but for a generation of NBA fans he was the greatest player they ever saw. His legacy won’t be diminished by this final season just as Jordan’s wasn’t with the Wizards. Instead we should all celebrate one of the true icons of the game.

Kobe’s announcement also officially starts the retirement tour which is something that’s pretty rare in NBA circles. It will be interesting to see the gifts from teams, and reactions from fans, that are bestowed upon Kobe as he makes his last stops in cities. As it stands, with the Lakers unlikely to make the playoffs, Kobe’s last game will come Wednesday, April 13 at home against Utah. Expect a tear or two to be shed.

Ross Kelly is an Associated Producer for CBS Local Sports. He is from Louisiana and is a fan of all sports, but not of any teams (except LSU). He can be reached at ross.kelly@cbs.com.