It’s no secret that Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is retiring tonight. The five-time NBA champion has had appreciation heaped upon him from all corners of the sports world, praising his impact on the NBA and the city of Los Angeles.
Bryant, however, took the time to thank someone else: Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.
After 32 seasons with the Lakers, the dependable Vitti is also retiring at the end of the season. He will go out at the same time as the star player that he spent countless hours working on.
Thanks to a litany of injuries that afflicted Bryant throughout his career, Vitti was tasked with keeping the star guard on the court. The two developed a bond during their time together, and Bryant made sure to show his appreciation as the both prepare for their final game.
According to NBA.com, Bryant gave Vitti a picture of the two walking to at the airport in Detroit.
On the picture, Bryant wrote:
“To Gary, You are the best! Thank you for always having my back and showing me how to act like a pro! I love you and appreciate you more than you will ever know.”
In his 32 seasons in Los Angeles Vitti has seen it all. He suffered through Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement, tended to Julius Randle’s broken leg, and even recently popped a dislocated finger back into place for Bryant during a timeout.
While Vitti will remain on staff as a consultant for the Lakers, he will no longer be the constant presence that he has been for so long. The times are changing, and the Lakers organization is losing another key figure from their glorious past.