For all that Kobe Bryant accomplished with the Los Angeles Lakers after being selected No. 13 overall by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 Draft, winning an Oscar Award may be his most surprising and unexpected achievement to date.
For as diligently and passionately as Bryant honed his craft on the hardwood, which earned him five NBA championships and a slew of personal awards, he’s carried that same work ethic into his post-career. Bryant’s affinity for storytelling led to winning an Oscar for best animated short film.
The “Dear Basketball” work was based off the poem Bryant wrote to formally announce his retirement after 20 seasons with the Lakers. The animated short winner wasn’t revealed until more than halfway into the 90th annual Academy Awards.
Bryant said that wait wound up proving to be more challenging and nerve-wracking than his days of shooting the last shot for the Lakers, via Jimmy Kimmel Live:
“I thought it was actually going to be easier, because you’re not in control. There’s no direction competition going on where you’re affecting the outcome. It’s out of my control, it’s going to be easy, it’s cool. And then once it gets closer and closer, you start feeling butterflies in your stomach. You’re like, ‘Why the heck am I feeling this?’ And then I realize it’s actually worse, because I’m not in control of the outcome. You’re just sitting there, we know the award is coming up next, and then they go to commercial. Me and my wife were like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!’ Like, come on, let’s go. Let’s go already.”
Bryant became the first former professional athlete to be nominated for an Oscar Award, and now is the first African-American to win in the animated short film category. The prospect of taking home the hardware led to Bryant saying it would be more meaningful than anything he achieved as a basketball player.
He then doubled down on that sentiment after winning, saying if felt ‘better’ than when he was crowned an NBA champion. That surprised Lakers head coach Luke Walton, who was shocked to learn of Bryant’s remarks, and said he wasn’t inclined to believe his former teammate.