Basketball superstar Kobe Byrant is an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA team, and winner of five NBA championships during his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. And now, he can add “Oscar nominee” to his list of achievements.
Bryant was nominated in the category of best animated short for his collaboration with Glen Keane and composer John Williams on the film Dear Basketball.
Dear Basketball is based on the poem Bryant wrote in 2015 after announcing his retirement from the Lakers at the end of the 2015-2016 season. “My heart can take the pounding/My mind can handle the grind/But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye./And that’s OK./I’m ready to let you go.”
Bryant had originally reached out to John Williams in 2008: “I asked myself a question,” Bryant told the Los Angeles Times. “What makes a John Williams piece timeless? How is he using each instrument? How is he building momentum? As a basketball player, what I found myself doing a lot was essentially conducting a game, right? I wanted to talk to him about how he composed music, and try to find something similar that I can then use to help my game as a leader and winning championships.” (Williams told Bryant he’d never seen a basketball game in his life. “High school, college, professional, or television,” he said. Bryant laughed.)
When Bryant began producing the Dear Basketball short, Williams was the only person he wanted to score it. “I don’t want it to be poppy, I don’t want it to be hip-hoppy. I want timeless, classical music.”
Glen Keane — who had animated Ariel in The Little Mermaid — hand-drew all of the animation for the short with graphite on paper.
“This is beyond the realm of imagination,” Bryant tweeted Tuesday morning upon learning of his nomination. “Thanks to the genius of @GlenKeanePrd & John Williams for taking my poem to this level. It’s an honor to be on this team.”
Watch the full short film here.