Kobe Bryant is working hard to change the narrative of his legacy. On Sunday, he received the biggest boost to that effort he could have received.
That’s right. Kobe Bryant won an Oscar.
During the 90th Academy Awards, Bryant and famed Walt Disney animator Glen Keane beat out Negative Space, Lou, Garden Party, and Revolting Rhymes to take home the Oscar for Best Short Film (Animated).
The short, called “Dear Basketball” was based off of the retirement announcement of the former Los Angeles Lakers star.
In the short, Bryant recounts his version of his journey from child to superstar, and his decision to hang it up after years of playing in the NBA. It’s impressive, although that’s to be expected given the heavy hitters involved in both Keane and composer John Williams.
Of course, context for Bryant’s short film is necessary. Yes, Bryant has been a major face in the NBA for two decades and will continue to be as he stays in the spotlight. However, Bryant has tried to make a major pivot into being a “storyteller” as a post-playing career. He’s been everywhere, not only with “Dear Basketball” but with his weird, puppet-centric “Musecage” series during last season’s NBA Finals.
Bryant even took to a long sit down with former Lakers rival Shaquille O’Neal in which both grinned and spun a tale nobody should believe. In that fiction, Bryant told us that he was cool with Shaq’s incessant prodding. Shaq then said he had only egged Kobe on over the years for the sake of marketing.
For Kobe’s part, much of his pivot seems to be done in order to keep him culturally relevant and allow him an active hand in the massaging of his legacy. Bryant was a dogged competitor, and often a destructive force and personality, grating on his teammates and those around him. “Musecage” and to a lesser extent, “Dear Basketball” try to soften that view of his career, changing the verbiage on it to reflect his singlemindedness as a positive worthy more of respect than a critical eye.
This will allow him to continue to sell his line of shoes with Nike (like the A.D) long after the last time Bryant stepped on an NBA floor, much in the vein of his hero Michael Jordan.
It’s a transparent marketing ploy, and one that will no doubt work. Heck, Kobe’s already done the heavy lifting in hiring a legendary illustrator and perhaps the most prolific film composer of the 20th century, and it’s won him a dang Oscar less than two years after his final NBA game.
Kobe Bryant has an Oscar now. What else is there to say?