Kobe Bryant: Lakers Star's Death Puts Spotlight on 'Muse' English Teacher in Resurfaced Interview

Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 and fans continue to mourn the loss of the Los Angeles Lakers legend. One of the ways fans are honoring Bryant is by watching his documentary, Kobe Bryant's Muse, which originally aired in 2015. One of the people featured in Muse is his high school English teacher, Jeanne Mastriano, and her interview with Bill Littlefield of WBUR has resurfaced. One of the things Mastriano was asked is what grade she would give Bryant's poem Dear Basketball which was made into an animated short film.

"I would walk away from grading this kind of piece," she said. "I would definitely put it back in the lap of the writer and just ask about investment, ask about purpose: what were you going after? And I think he did the job."

She was also asked about Bryant calling her his "muse" during a pre-game press conference at the time.

"It was the first time I had ever been indirectly called a 'demigoddess,' right?" she said. "A Muse, one of the nine sister goddesses of inspiration, right? Yeah, he didn't call me a muse when he was in high school, but we had a good relationship.

"He was remarkably disciplined in high school. He was getting pulled out to play with this team or that team, and he'd be gone for days, and he'd come back with the assignments in hand. That was super. I respected him a lot for that."

Once the poem was released, there was some debate about Bryant really writing the poem. Littlefield believed that it was all Kobe and Mastriano agreed with him.

"I would second that," she added. "I don't know either. It took me completely by surprise. There's too strong a sense of through line, you know?"


As mentioned, the poem led to an animated short film and it then led to an Academy Award for Bryant, becoming the first professional athlete to win an Oscar.

"Thank you, Academy, for this amazing honor," Bryant said during his acceptance speech. "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. And to my wife Vanessa, our daughters Natalia, Gianna, and Bianka. 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."