As if Kobe Bryant didn’t have enough accolades (including five NBA championships, two finals MVP titles and league MVP in 2006), now Bryant is an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball.” He shares the nomination with director Glen Keane and marks the first nomination for both of them.
The film is based on a poem Bryant wrote for the online publication, “The Players’ Tribune,” in which he announced his retirement from the sport he had played for 20 years. The piece is a love letter to the sport that Bryant has been in love with since he was six. Bryant narrates the piece talking about how he started playing by rolling up his dad’s tube socks and shooting them into a trashcan.
He chased his dream of playing and devoted his life to the sport, saying at one point, “I played through the sweat and hurt; Not because you challenged me but because YOU called me.” He goes on to say that while his mind and heart are eager to continue playing, his body is just not able to continue. He makes peace with the fact that he won’t be playing professionally anymore but will still always think of himself as that kid trying to get a rolled-up pair of socks into the trash with five seconds left on the clock.
Could Bryant add an Oscar to his already impressive list of accomplishments? Let’s analyze the pros and cons of what this short brings to the competition.
The film is beautifully drawn and very well made. The hand-drawn look actually makes the story feel more personal and other cinematic elements, including a score by John Williams, make it a very entertaining watch.
The film can actually feel kind of profound. Even if you’re someone who isn’t into basketball, there’s no doubt there will be a group of voters who will relate to that image of being a kid and completely obsessed with something that you hope you can make a living off of one day.
In the midst of the #MeToo campaign, are voters really going to bestow an Oscar on someone who was publicly accused of sexual assault? To be fair though, Bryant denies the allegations, the case was never prosecuted and a civil suit on the matter was settled out of court.
While Bryant gives a lot of credit to the sport itself, it feels really strange that he wouldn’t mention any of his coaches or mentors that helped get him to where he ended up.
Sports fandom can make people do crazy things. Even if there are some voters who like Kobe Bryant, there might be an equally large segment of Academy voters who don’t like him and will vote for something else just to make sure he doesn’t win.