In November 2015, when Kobe Bryant had decided it would be his final basketball season, he requested a meeting with Jeanie Buss, the controlling owner of the Lakers. They met at the house she was sharing with her then-fiancé, Phil Jackson.
“I have a way I want to do it,” Ms. Buss recalled Mr. Bryant telling her. She said that he planned out his retirement announcement, which included giving a special letter to each fan attending that game. “Everything Kobe did was very thought out and it had purpose,” she said.
It has been a tough few years for the Lakers, and for Ms. Buss. She had a public fight with two of her brothers for control of the team, and then her handpicked aide, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, quit suddenly and publicly. The team had been trying to rebound from its dismal record by leaning on LeBron James, but the 2018-2019 season unraveled in spectacular fashion when he got hurt on Christmas.
The Lakers, which by that time in franchise history had won 16 National Basketball Association championships, had not qualified for the playoffs in years.
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