Kobe f*cking Bryant. NBA legend, and now Oscar winner.
On Sunday evening at the 90th annual Academy Awards, Kobe Bryant added another piece of hardware to his already impressive resume.
In addition to his five championship rings with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals, and a grandiose list of accomplishments of all things basketball, the Black Mamba now boasts an Oscar trophy for the best animated short feature.
Kobe Bryant and animator Glen Keane’s film “Dear Basketball” won over “Lou”, “Revolting Rhymes”, “Garden Party”, and “Negative Space.” The feature was an animated short professing Bryant’s love for basketball from his time as a child to the present moment.
Throughout the six minute film, Kobe narrates a poem he penned in 2015 to officially announce his retirement on the Player’s Tribune. I know this for a fact because the first time I had read the poem, I cried.
Here was the man that had initially inspired my love for the game, announcing his departure in the most poetic possible fashion:
“I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more..”
In the spur of the moment, my heart was crushed to hear the Mamba admit that Father Time had finally caught up to him. But nobody could have expected him to win an Oscar at the Academy Awards two years later. The White Man’s Trophy!
The Oscars, which have a historically racist discourse surrounding the lack of minority representation, recognized an African-American basketball icon who is now voyaging through the world of fine arts. And he won.
During his acceptance speech, Bryant was ushered in as his co-recipient Glen Keane was mentioning how this film was a representation of the notion that “the impossible is possible.” Kobe stepped in to say, “I mean I don’t know if it’s possible, as basketball players we’re just supposed to just ‘Shut up and dribble.'”
Shoutout to Kobe Bryant for adjusting the focus onto the larger issue at hand.
A couple of weeks ago, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham publicly insulted LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s UNINTERRUPTED segment, in which they touch on Trump and race in America. Ingraham stated basketball players should remain quiet on political topics and just “shut up and dribble.”
LeBron and KD came back at Ingraham, but for Kobe to publicly respond, in his actual Oscar acceptance speech, is emblematic of the greatness Black athletes can achieve in any walk of life. African-American athletes are more than just figures of entertainment; they are pivotal voices in shifting the culture and are clearly capable of greatness in all avenues, like Mr. Kobe Bryant.
Kobe has taken the first step to proving that athletes, especially Black athletes, can do more than play a sport. For effective results, perseverance and determination are critical. Bryant is no stranger to such traits. In fact, he’s dedicated his entire basketball career to the iconic adage we’ve all come to know and trust: the Mamba Mentality.
You see, what’s amazing about Kobe’s career post-retirement is that he’s taken his obsession to be great on the basketball court and is now channeling it towards a creative outlet. Bryant is a living embodiment of dreams coming to fruition through sacrifice and determination, no matter the field.
We already know how great of a businessman Kobe is; he’s turned himself from an obsessively competitive player to an investor and entrepreneur. Having learned from the likes of Air Jordan, the Mamba has increased his net worth by investing in companies on the come up through his VC Bryant Stibel, as well as opening his own Kobe Inc. for all of his sports tech endeavors.
We’ve already seen Bryant’s strive for greatness on the court. In terms of basketball, Bryant’s career was nothing short of amazing. Kobe began his career as an athletic freak of nature, baptizing players left and right with vicious throw downs and an explosive first step.
He honed his jumper, but was then asked to be the primary ball-handler in order to optimize his play with Shaq, collecting three championships and earning the recognition as one of the most dominant duos in the history of the NBA.
Then after his first 10 years, Kobe donned the number 24, a symbolic shift, not only in jersey number, but style of play as well. As his athleticism retreated bit by bit, he emulated Jordan’s footwork, mastering the fade-away and punishing players with a scoring repertoire second-to-none.
He evolved as a leader, leading the Lakers to two championships and proving all of the naysayers who said his first three rings were only because of Shaq… Stop it with the disrespect.
And while the scoring prowess was amazing to watch, many forget that Kobe was a hell of a defender. His tenacity and hunger to be great on both sides of the ball granted him 12 All-Defensive Team selections, tied with Kevin Garnett for the second most selections in NBA history; a legend who was as passionate of a player on both sides of the ball… damn.
During the cusp of his retirement year, Bryant admitted he was comfortable with the idea of leaving the game.
“I’m thankful. I’m not sad at all. I left no stone unturned, I gave everything to the game for 20 years in the NBA and more before that. So I feel very thankful to be able to play this game this long.”
Having turned every stone in basketball, Kobe is now shifting towards becoming the best businessman and creative he can be.
And I can assure you, judging from his obsession with excellence, and as the founder of the “Mamba Mentality,” a credo that has been a foundational message for not only athletes, but an entire generation, the Black Mamba is bound for more success.
Salute to you, Kobe Bean!