Kobe Bryant's Final Season Was Filmed for 'The Last Dance'-Style Documentary

With ESPN's 10-part documentary series about Michael Jordan, The Last Dance, drawing considerable attention, there have been questions about what other players could be featured. One popular option is Kobe Bryant, the late Los Angeles Lakers star who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. Fans want to see Bryant's life and career as a documentary, which may now be possible.

ESPN's Baxter Holmes reported on April 24 that Bryant's final season in the NBA had been filmed by a camera crew. They were present at each game and in the locker room during his 20th season with the team. These crews were given "unparalleled access" both at home and on the road. They were even allowed on the team's charter plane during trips. While a documentary has not been confirmed, league sources told ESPN that the footage has been in editing stages for years.

Additionally, the sources told ESPN that the late NBA icon didn't want anyone else to have control over this footage, so he brought in his own camera crew. He had also been involved in the editing process. Bryant had reportedly seen the footage captured during his final season and had provided feedback to those in the editing bay prior to his death.

"They had unprecedented and, by far, greater access than anyone else ever," said John Black, the former leader of the Lakers' public relations department. "We certainly allowed them to do everything we could within what the league would allow, and sometimes, with a wink and look-the-other-way, allowed them even more." Former Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti even likened the filming process to a "reality show" and called it "uncomfortable at times."

Former staff members of the Los Angeles Lakers witnessed the camera crews in action and have since drawn comparisons to The Last Dance. They believe that a documentary was in the works and would be released years after Bryant's retirement. Although the biggest difference between the two NBA stars was the record. The Chicago Bulls were trying to win the sixth NBA championship of Jordan's career while the Lakers were struggling through the worst season in franchise history.

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"Just watching them and being able to view what the cameras were doing to [capture] Jordan's pregame routine, I mean, it's the same thing," said Marco Nunez, a former assistant athletic trainer for the Lakers, per ESPN. "Just flash forward ... take out No. 23 with the Bulls and insert No. 24 with the Lakers. Yeah, I mean, it's pretty much identical."

While having a camera crew around all of the time was jarring for many players and staff members, the Lakers did eventually grow accustomed to the intrusion. They began noticing specific moments and picturing how they would appear in a documentary series. The irritation changed into fascination, especially after The Last Dance premiered.