Kobe Bryant is undoubtedly one of the most highly decorated basketball players in NBA history. He is a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, and more. This year, he added a unique item to his long list of achievements—an Academy Award nomination.
Bryant received an Oscar nod for the animated short film category for his work on Dear Basketball, which he created alongside animator Glen Keane. The six-minute film is based on the poem he wrote and published in The Players’ Tribune in 2015, in which he announced his retirement from professional basketball.
Keane, best known for his work in high profile Disney films such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast, used hand-drawn animation to incorporate Bryant into the film. The film is scored by composer John Williams. The decision to have the film animated was made by the athlete himself, explaining to The Undefeated that the imperfections that come with hand-drawn animations allow viewers to feel the soul of the film.
“You can feel the texture of it. Twenty-four frames per second. No step skipped.”
As a retired basketball player, getting recognized by the Academy Awards is a form of validation for Kobe Bryant; a testament that he “can do something other than dribble and shoot.”
The Black Mamba’s big Hollywood moment, however, is shrouded in controversy in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the strong anti-sexual assault sentiment enveloping the industry at present.
This year’s awards season has been a golden moment for the #MeToo movement, particularly during the 2018 Golden Globes where everyone stood in solidarity by wearing black outfits to protest sexual assault and harassment not just in the entertainment industry, but in other professions and environments as well.
In 2003, Kobe Bryant was arrested in Colorado on charges of sexual assault. According to the Los Angeles Times, he was charged with raping a 19-year-old hotel clerk. The rape charge against him was dropped and as part of the deal, Bryant publicly apologized to the victim, during which he admitted having relations with the victim but claimed that he thought it was consensual. He also apologized to his wife.
Bryant’s nomination comes as a surprise to some, given the fervent support for #MeToo across Hollywood and takedown of high profile figures accused of sexual assault, including James Franco who was snubbed by the Academy Awards for his performance in The Disaster Artist. Five women came forward and accused Franco of sexually inappropriate behavior while they were at the actor’s Studio 4 or Playhouse West.
The 2018 Academy Awards will be held on March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.