Former professional basketball player Kobe Bryant made history at the 90th Academy Awards as the first black person and athlete to ever win an Oscar for a short animated film. He took home the award for his movie, Dear Basketball. Bryant’s post-retirement role in the film and television industry might seem surprising to some, but it’s something Bryant has been thinking about all of his life.
Still, leaving behind the basketball court for film and television sets hasn’t exactly been a smooth and seamless transition. In fact, it was something the former Laker didn’t think he could achieve. However, he was determined to press forward because he got some amazing advice from one very surprising person.
On Nov. 9, 2015, Bryant wrote a moving letter in The Players’ Tribune titled “Dear Basketball.” The piece announced his retirement from the game after five championships and two decades on the court. The letter would become the premise for his and co-director Glen Keane’s film.
Bryant said in the letter, “I’m ready to let you go. I want you to know now so we both can savor every moment we have left together. The good and the bad. We have given each other all that we have.”
Next: Proving everyone wrong
Bryant did not retire from the game that he loved on a whim, nor did simply fall into film and television. Storytelling was something that he has always thought about.
Backstage after winning his Academy Award, he said, “The hardest thing for an athlete to do is to start over. People asked me all the time what I wanted to when I retired. I said, ‘I want to be a writer and a storyteller.’ I got a lot of, ‘That’s cute.’ So being here right now, I have a sense of validation.”
Next: A mega-star mentor
Oprah Winfrey’s help
Despite the naysayers, a few people were willing to guide Bryant through the industry. In an interview after the Oscars, Bryant was sure to credit his mentor, Oprah Winfrey, for her advice and for taking the time to be his guide in a very exclusive industry.
He revealed, “I had no idea what I was doing, so the first person I called was Oprah. I didn’t understand the business at all as you would imagine, but I loved writing. Oprah was gracious enough to spend an hour and some change with me on the phone explaining to me how she built Harpo from day one, and I cannot thank her enough. She’s a mentor now.”
Next: Shadowing a gamechanger
A mentor in Shonda Rhimes
Everyone was shocked when Bryant appeared on ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder opposite Viola Davis earlier this year. However, we now know that Shonda Rhimes has also been pivotal in his move into the entertainment industry.
Bryant said of the Grey’s Anatomy creator, “Shonda Rhimes is absolutely amazing, and I was fortunate enough to go to Shondaland, sit in the writer’s room, and to be on set. When you have mentors like that, everything tends to work itself out.”
Next: The advice that forced him to move forward
The best advice he’s gotten
Obviously, you can’t lose with Oprah and Shonda Rhimes at your side. However, Bryant’s best advice about switching careers came from a surprising source, and it propelled him to move forward with making Dear Basketball.
He explained, “All of this put me out of my comfort zone. My daughter Gianna gave me the best piece of advice because I’d never done something like this before. She said, ‘You’re always telling us to go after our dreams, so man up.'”
Next: Refusing to shut up and dribble
More than an athlete
With the Black Lives Matter movement and President Trump’s racist rhetoric, athletes in the NBA and the National Football League have been kneeling, speaking out, and using their platforms for various forms of activism. Apparently, some people can’t handle this. Recently, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham suggested that instead of speaking out about the issues that concern them, NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant should instead “shut up and dribble.”
Bryant referenced the slight in his Oscar’s acceptance speech. He said, “Well, I don’t know if it’s possible — as basketball players, we’re really supposed to just shut up and dribble, but I’m glad we do a little bit more than that.”
Next: A brand new journey
A new career
With an Oscar, Bryant has only started his new career. He has a series of five novels in the works. He explained his excitement over finding a new passion.
In his post-Oscars interview, he said, “I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to write, I can’t wait to get to the studio.”
Follow Aramide on Twitter @midnightrami.
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