Kobe Bryant had big plans for the future before his tragic death at the age of 41 on Sunday, January 26. In his final interview, the NBA superstar shared what he had been up to since his retirement in 2016.
Bryant told USA Today Sports in a profile published on Thursday, January 23, that although he cherished his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, the awards that he won for his 2017 animated short film, Dear Basketball — which included an Oscar, a Sports Emmy and an Annie Award — were “at the top.”
“It’s not something that was expected,” he said. “As a kid, you kind of have the goal of winning championships and all these sorts of things. Being in the industry that I’m in now? It wasn’t something that was thought of me winning an Oscar.”
Bryant also stayed busy with his multimedia company, Granity Studios, which produced the ESPN+ series Detail and the podcast “The Punies.” Additionally, he oversaw the publication of four sports fantasy children’s books, the last of which, The Wizenard Series: Season One, is set to hit bookstores on March 31.
The athlete’s busy schedule came as a surprise to many of his former teammates, team officials and opponents. He told the publication that “people were genuinely concerned” about his next chapter after he took off his Lakers jersey for the final time at the end of the 2015-2016 season.
“‘I don’t know what you want to do when you retire,’” he recalled people telling him. “‘You’re going to go through a state of depression. You’re going to have an identity crisis.’”
But Bryant took his new life in stride. He was particularly proud of the children’s books he worked on, in part because he was not much of a reader growing up.
“You got to do what you love to do,” he told USA Today Sports. “I love telling stories. I love inspiring kids or providing them with tools that are going to help them.”
On top of his own career, the Philadelphia native dedicated the final two years of his life to coaching his daughter Gianna’s Amateur Athletic Union team.
“Coaching youth sports is so important to take very seriously because you’re helping the emotional [development] of young kids,” he noted in the interview. “So it’s understanding not to be overcritical and understanding that [there] are going to be mistakes.”
Bryant and Gianna, 13, were two of the nine people who were killed on Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas neighborhood of L.A.
They are survived by the basketball legend’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, and their daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
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