The five-minute film is a love letter from Bryant — who died along with his daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, January 26 — to the sport that made him a household name.
“Dear basketball, from the moment I started rolling my dad’s tube socks and shooting imaginary, game-winning shots in the Great Western Forum, I knew one thing was real: I fell in love with you,” he narrates, reading from his 2015 retirement letter, as Keane’s hand-drawn animation shows a young Kobe daydreaming of NBA glory. “A love so deep, I gave you my all, from my mind and body to my spirit and soul.”
As a John Williams score swells in the background, Bryant describes his ascent to fame, his devotion to the game and his decision to walk away.
“My body knows it’s time to say goodbye, and that’s OK,” the late Los Angeles Lakers star says in the film. “I’m ready to let you go. I want you to know now, so we both can savor every moment that we have left together, the good and the bad, we have given each other all that we have. And we both know that no matter what I do next, I’ll always be that kid with the rolled-up socks, garbage can in the corner, five seconds on the clock, ball in my hands. … Love you always, Kobe.”
Dear Basketball can be viewed in its entirety at DearBasketball.com. Production company Believe Entertainment Group says the film “embodies Kobe’s love, passion, and gratitude for the game and celebrates the importance of dreaming big, hard work, and perseverance.”
The film also won a 2018 Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject and a 2018 Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Post-Produced Graphic Design.
Backstage at the 2018 Oscars, Bryant told reporters his win that night felt “better than winning the championship,” according to USA Today.
He elaborated: “Growing up as a kid, I dreamed of winning championships and working really hard to make that dream come true, but then like to have something like this seemingly come out of left field … I heard a lot of people telling me when I started writing, and they would ask me, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ And I’d say, ‘Well, I want to be a writer, I want to be a storyteller.’ I got a lot of, ‘That’s cute. That’s cute. You’ll be depressed when your career is over, and you’ll come back to playing.’ I got that a lot. And so, to be here right now and to have a sense of validation is … This is crazy, man!”