Kobe Bryant Hosts Oscar Celebration Two Months After Win

Kobe Bryant Hosts Celebratory Oscar Party - Scott Feinberg-Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Scott Feinberg

During Kobe Bryant’s last year playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016, people tried to warn the basketball legend — who had spent his entire career with the same team and wearing two jersey numbers (No. 8 and No. 24) — that retirement would bring a flood of emotions like misery, denial and, eventually, depression. But Bryant had other plans. 

“I’m like, dude, I got a call with Glen Keane and John Williams at 1 o’clock, I’m good,” Bryant recalls of conversations with Keane, an animator and director, and Williams, the legendary composer, which led to the creation of Dear Basketball. The animated short film won an Oscar two months ago, and Bryant is still in no danger of falling into a sunken place.

Bryant and Disney legend turned indie filmmaker Keane hosted an intimate cocktail party April 25 at West Hollywood’s new destination Jeremy Hotel show their gratitude to the team of Hollywood insiders who worked on or otherwise supported the film, which was adapted from Bryant's retirement poem of the same name.

Both men brought their still-shining Oscars, even encouraging guests to pose for photos with the statuettes, and with them. Among those in attendance were Ivana Kirkbride, the general manager for Oath OTT Entertainment (which includes Verizon's go90, the streaming service that distributed the short); Nicole Wool, Rogers & Cowan's vp digital marketing and publicity (who oversaw its awards campaign); and Gennie Rim, Keane's producing partner. Also there: Molly Carter, chief marketing office of Kobe, Inc., home of Bryant's numerous artistic ventures, whom he called “the boss lady right there.”

In a brief but passionate speech, Bryant said that while the celebrations and in order, he’s got no intention of basking in the Oscar glow for long. “This is fun, this is just the beginning,” he said. “Now the pressure becomes, alright well, now we gotta follow that shit up, so. Thank you guys so much for coming out tonight. I look forward to creating more together.”

That said, Bryant even tugged the heart strings a bit when he commented that the experience of working with his legendary team delivered more than just gold. “It’s more than the Oscar,” he continued. “A lot of parents, coaches, brothers and sisters come up to me and say that they've watched Dear Basketball over and over and over and over and over as a tool of inspiration for their own personal lives. Whenever they're facing adversity, when their kid goes out on the youth baseball game and strikes out with the chance to win the game and they go home and they watch Dear Basketball and get some thrill. That’s really what it's all about…creating art and animation that moves the needle beyond words.”

A version of this story first appeared in the May 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.