ANAHEIM, Calif. — Hours after Kobe Bryant formally announced this would be his final NBA season on Sunday, the greatest Lakers legend of them all digested the news with a smile.
Magic Johnson said he's thrilled that Bryant is retiring on his own terms and that the Lakers franchise can finally begin to rebuild in earnest without him.
"I was going to support whatever he chose to do, but I think it's good for him and it's good for the Lakers organization to know they're going to move on without him," Johnson told Yahoo Sports at halftime of the Michigan State-Providence game. "It's good for everybody, even the fans. They know now too. Now everybody can get ready for the new Lakers after he's gone."
Bryant announced his impending retirement in the form of a first-person story published Sunday on The Players' Tribune website. After a 20-year career spent entirely in Los Angeles, he wrote that "this season is all I have left to give."
In two decades in the NBA, Bryant, 37, has won league MVP once, made 17 all-star teams and captured five championships and two Olympic gold medals. Injuries and age have waylaid him in recent years, but Johnson said neither Bryant's 31.5 percent shooting this season, nor the Lakers' 2-13 record detract from his legacy as one of the best players in NBA history.
"He's the closest thing we've seen to Michael Jordan," Johnson said. "He'll probably go down as the second greatest scoring guard. You couldn't stop him. His will to win was incredible and he stayed in the gym like no other. This guy was 24/7 basketball. I'm happy for him because he said he feels this is his time to go out. He's going out the way he wants to go out."
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