While it was a surprise to see the folks behind Oscar-winning short Hair Love pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Academy Awards, it makes sense once you hear about the Lakers star's ambitions with one of the director's behind the short.
According to The Proud Family creator Bruce W. Smith, he had dinner with Bryant shortly before his passing and learned that the NBA icon was looking to make a jump into animation.
"Kobe was heavily invested, at the time, in starting an animation studio," Smith told Double Toasted in an interview from earlier in the month. "So for the past six months or so, Kobe and I had been in deep talks about making that happen."
Smith called it part of Bryant's "second act" following his retirement from the NBA. Bryant had been clear in his support of women's sports, his family, and girl's youth sports through Mamba Academy, so it would see that animation and the creation of a studio would be apart of that.
Sadly, Bryant's death has cut off direct involvement in any animation ventures but it doesn't mean his goals won't live on with his family and widow Vanessa Bryant. As for Smith, the loss of Bryant almost left him speechless.
"It is still completely unbelievable," he said holding back emotions in the interview. "Like I still have not completely wrapped my head around the fact that Kobe's not here. Totally heartbreaking."
Smith's fellow creatives behind Hair Love shared their love of Bryant on the stage while accepting their trophy for the short.
"This award is dedicated to Kobe Bryant," Matthew A. Cherry said on the stage. "May we all have a second act as great as his was."
The awards show also honored Bryant during the annual In Memoriam segment, focusing on his Oscar victory a few years prior that marked him as the first athlete to walk away with the golden statue.
It also calls back to Bryant's acceptance speech at the time, highlighting what seems to be a spark in his post-retirement life.
"Thank you, Academy, for this amazing honor. Thank you, John Williams, for such a wonderful piece of music. Thank you, Verizon, for believing in the film. Thank you, Molly Carter, without you we wouldn't be here."0comments
"And to my wife Vanessa, our daughters Natalia, Gianna, and Bianka," Bryant added. "Ti amo con tutto il mio cuore [I love you with all my heart]. You are my inspiration. Thank you so much, guys, thank you."
Bryant is set to be honored at the NBA All-Star game on Sunday and was named as a finalist for the Hall of Fame on Friday. A public memorial for the Lakers legend will be held on Feb. 24 at Staples Center.