In 2018, Kobe Bryant won the Oscar for best animated short film for his short film, Dear Basketball. During Sunday night's ceremony, the award was given to former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry for his short Hair Love, and Cherry used his time at the podium to pay tribute to Bryant's own win.
"This award is dedicated to Kobe Bryant, may we all have a second act as great as his was," Cherry said during his acceptance speech.
Cherry played at the University of Akron before spending about three seasons in the NFL on the rosters and practice squads of various teams. He stepped away from the sport in 2007 and later moved to Los Angeles to pursue his Hollywood dreams. Cherry is the second former athlete to win an Oscar, after Bryant.
"It's very validating in a lot of ways," Cherry told The Undefeated of the accolade. "You hear those conversations of, 'Stick to sports,' you tell people what you want to do and they kind of brush it off. I feel an immense sense of responsibility to kind of continue his legacy, particularly in film, because I know he had such immense potential in that space — he won an Oscar for his retirement video. Imagine what he could do with the full resources of a studio behind him. I just really hope that we get an opportunity to honor him."
Bryant won his Oscar for Dear Basketball with Glen Keane, who animated and directed the nearly five-and-a-half-minute short. Famed composer John Williams created the music for the project, which was based on Bryant's November 2015 article for The Players' Tribune announcing his retirement.
"It's a message for all of us: Whatever form your dream may take, it's through passion and perseverance that the impossible is possible," Keane said during the pair's acceptance speech.
In response, Bryant joked, "I don't know if it's possible. I mean, as basketball players, we're really supposed to shut up and dribble, but I'm glad we did a little bit more than that."
The former NBA star closed his speech with a message to his wife and daughters.
"To my wife, Vanessa; our daughters, Natalia, Gianna, and Bianka; ti amo con tutto il cuore," he said. "You are my inspiration. Thank you so much."
Bryant died on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash in California that killed eight other people including his daughter Gianna.
On Feb. 24, Bryant and Gianna will be honored with a public memorial at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Bryant played for much of his 20-season career with the Lakers. The date is significant for the family as it combines Bryant's jersey number, 24, Gianna's jersey number, 2, and 20, the number of years Bryant spent as a Los Angeles Laker.
Photo Credit: Getty / Angela Weiss