The six-minute film won over “Garden Party,” “Lou,” “Negative Space,” and “Revolting Rhymes.”
On stage, Keane addressed the crowd saying, “[‘Dear Basketball’] is a message for all of us, whatever form your dream may take, it’s through passion and perseverance that the impossible is possible.”
He then passed the mic to Bryant who made a jab at Fox News host Laura Ingraham stating, “I don’t know if it’s possible, I mean, as basketball players, we’re really supposed to shut up and dribble. I’m glad we do a little bit more than that.”
He was referring Ingraham saying on Feb. 15 that Cleveland Cavaliers’ star LeBron James should just “shut up and dribble” after James had discussed his reaction to a racial slur painted on his house and criticized President Donald Trump in an interview.
An hour later, Bryant elaborated backstage and said, “I think for us, not just as athletes, but as people in general, we have the ability to what it is that we believe in. Whether you’re a professional athlete or not, whether you’re an actor not, you still have the ability to speak up for what it is that you believe in.”
Of winning the Oscar, Bryant said backstage, “I feel better than winning the championship.”
He also admitted that he faced a challenge in finding a new career as a retired professional athlete.
“The hardest thing to do for athletes is to quiet the ego,” Bryant said. “My advice is find something that you love to do and everything will make sense.”
“Dear Basketball” is based on a letter Bryant wrote in the Players’ Tribune in 2015, in which he announced his retirement from basketball, saying that his body could no longer withstand the grind of the season. Keane, whose animation credits include “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” directed and used hand-drawn animation to capture Bryant.
Keane’s son, Max, served as production designer on “Dear Basketball,” and initiated its storyboarding process, including the complex images of Bryant as a boy rolling his dad’s socks into a makeshift basketball. “We filmed Kobe showing us how he did it,” Glen Keane said.
The Keanes and producer Gennie Rim teamed with Bryant to watch videos of his games with the Los Angeles Lakers frame by frame.
“I can remember what it felt like in certain situations,” Bryant said. “From years of studying game films, you condition yourself to remember little details.”
Bryant played his entire 20-year professional career with the Lakers and won five championships before retiring in 2016.
In his backstage remarks, Bryant credited Oprah Winfrey and Shonda Rhimes on giving him advice on how to start a studio. “When you have mentors like that, things tend to work out,” he added.
Bryant also credited his daughter Gianna with providing him with the motivation to press on as a filmmaker, saying, “Well, dad, you always tell us to go after our dreams, so man up.”