Could a basketball legend earn an Oscar with his first go at filmmaking? Kobe Bryant, who recently retired from the Los Angeles Lakers, premiered his film “Dear Basketball” at the Lakers game Monday night, an animated feature recently short-listed by the Oscars in the race for best animated short.
According to Deadline, the premiere was part of a special ceremony to retire Bryant’s numbers, 8 and 24, a move which further highlights Bryant’s love for the sport. In conjunction with the world premiere, Verizon announced Monday morning that its go90 service, in collaboration with Granity Studios and Believe Entertainment, released the five-minute short along with the company’s Yahoo Sports, AOL and Complex platforms.
The short, based on Bryant’s poem about his lifelong passion for basketball, is directed by Disney animator Glen Keane, the man behind “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Tangled,” and “Aladdin.” “Dear Basketball” was created with hand drawn animation, something Bryant felt was symbolic to his own growth over his career; just as no picture is the same, no training session or shot is identical to another.
For the short’s score, Bryant went right to the top, asking John Williams of “Star Wars” fame to score the film. Williams agreed, though he was working on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at the time, and even used the same orchestra from the beloved franchise to record the soundtrack. The pair began a friendship back in 2008, according to Deadline, when Bryant approached Williams to ask how he conducts an entire orchestra to create a single voice. Bryant later spoke at the AFI Life Achievement Award Dinner for Williams eight years later. The basketball legend is thrilled by the continuing recognition of his poem, originally published back in 2015, saying:
I love storytelling and writing and producing, and working with other young talent to bring stories to life to either inform or inspire or challenge the next generation. I figured this project would let me create something that would let the next generation look at and process and interpret how they see fit.
We’ll just have to wait and see if “Dear Basketball” earns an official Oscar nod on Jan. 23, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announces their nominees for the best in film. Watch the animated short here.