It's only been two weeks since a helicopter crash in Calabasas claimed the lives of nine people, including legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Bryant, an Oscar winner, is set to be honored at the 92nd annual Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 9. But some may be asking: What did Kobe Bryant win an Oscar for?
What did Kobe Bryant win an Oscar for?
While Bryant's name is synonymous with basketball championships and not necessarily Hollywood award shows, he earned his Oscar in 2018. Bryant took home the trophy for best animated short film at the ceremony, along with Glen Keane, who animated and directed the short called "Dear Basketball." It featured music by John Williams, an award-winning composer who worked on "Star Wars" movies, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and several other classics.
Narrated by Bryant, "Dear Basketball" is a nearly five-and-a-half-minute short illustrating the poem that the Los Angeles Laker wrote for "The Players' Tribune" to announce his retirement in November 2015. With lines like "I fell in love with you / A love so deep I gave you my all / From my mind and body / To my spirit and soul" and "This season is all I have left to give. / My heart can take the pounding / My mind can handle the grind / But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye," it's all about letting go and moving on from the sport that Bryant loved deeply.
In their Oscar acceptance speech, Keane — who worked on beloved Disney movies like "The Little Mermaid," "Tarzan" and "Beauty and the Beast" — thanked Bryant for writing the short. "It's a message for all of us: Whatever form your dream may take, it's through passion and perseverance that the impossible is possible," Keane said.
Bryant responded by joking, "I don't know if it's possible. I mean, as basketball players, we're really supposed to shut up and dribble, but I'm glad we did a little bit more than that." (That last part was widely interpreted as a dig at Fox News host Laura Ingraham's comment at the time that athletes should "shut up and dribble," rather than commenting on political matters.)
Bryant closed out the acceptance speech by extending gratitude to his wife and their family. "To my wife, Vanessa; our daughters, Natalia, Gianna, and Bianka; ti amo con tutto il cuore. You are my inspiration. Thank you so much." The Italian translates to "I love you with all my heart."
Revisiting Bryant's Academy Award win is bittersweet in the wake of his death, and Keane recently spoke to the "New York Times" about the project. "Kobe was the most passionate man who was led by his heart and his intellect," Keane recalled. "He was a great thinker with an insatiable hunger for learning: As soon as he stepped into animation, he eagerly began soaking up every aspect of it. Working with him was a dream and one of the high points of my career."
Per the "Times," Bryant once said of the short film, "Animation can capture the emotion in the story in a much more compelling, visual way than live action," and Keane's comments make clear he poured his heart into "Dear Basketball."
How will the 2020 Oscars remember Kobe Bryant?
According to the "Los Angeles Times", producer Stephanie Allain said at a press conference ahead of this year's Oscars ceremony, "The In Memoriam section has always been an important part of the show, and this year is no different in that we’re honoring all of our community that we’ve lost. I think what’s really appropriate is that Kobe was part of the film community, and as such, he will be embraced within the In Memoriam section.”
It's unclear in what capacity that will be, but another memorial for Bryant was announced this past week. His wife Vanessa Bryant posted on Instagram that a public memorial will take place at the Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020 titled "A Celebration of Life: Kobe & Gianna Bryant."
The Academy also paid tribute to Bryant on Instagram on Jan. 26, the same day as his passing. Along with a photo from the 2018 Oscars, the caption read, "They doubted a kid could make it in the NBA and he proved them wrong. They doubted he could win a championship and he proved them wrong. They doubted he could make movies and he won an Oscar. Like all great artists, Kobe Bryant proved the doubters wrong. Rest in peace."
With his Oscar win, Bryant really did prove his talents extended beyond the basketball court. And fans will just have to stay tuned to see how his memory continues to be honored at the Academy Awards and beyond.