“The beauty of finding what it is that you love to do, and then finding the beauty of knowing that you will not be able to do that forever.”
A curious nominee at this year’s Academy Awards is the short film Dear Basketball. Curious because it was created by an athlete… though not just any athlete. Kobe Bryant, whose distinguished 20-year career with the L.A. Lakers included five championship rings, 18 NBA All-Star games, and the third-highest regular season scoring record of all time, has also become a mogul. After retiring in 2016, he formed his own production company, Granity Studios, and has ambitions to write and create original stories in all kinds of media.
He wrote the poem “Dear Basketball” when he announced his retirement, and after hanging up his jersey he decided to animate this letter—part loving tribute, part wistful elegy—to the sport that defined him. Still driven by a hunger for excellence, he invited the Kobe of traditional animation, Glen Keane (the Disney veteran who designed Ariel in The Little Mermaid) to animate and direct… and the Kobe of film composers, John Williams himself, to write the score.
Turns out, the baller from Philly is also a film music nerd. I asked Bryant if he had any particularly nerdy childhood memories. “You mean besides tying a towel around my neck and flying around to the Superman theme?” he laughed. “You can’t take a bath, you can’t jump in any body of water whatsoever without thinking of the Jaws theme,” he added. “That’s amazing.”
I interviewed Bryant, Williams, and Keane in the spring of 2017 for the L.A. Times. With the Academy Awards approaching, I wanted to share our full conversations about this potentially Oscar-winning little gem—and about how these three generations of men, from wildly different backgrounds, ended up discovering kindred spirits.