Kobe Bryant won five NBA Championships, but players do not get to keep the Larry O’Brien Trophy in their homes. No matter. Bryant is happy to have two more recent awards displayed in his house, ones that symbolize his new career. He looks at them every morning before he goes to work.
One is the Annie Award, given to animated work, that his short film “Dear Basketball” won in February. The other is the Academy Award the same film took home in March.
Not a bad start to a post-basketball life Bryant is fashioning in media, most recently with Thursday’s planned launch of a new show, “Detail,” on ESPN+, a subscription-based direct-to-customer service, in which he will analyze the NBA playoffs in coming weeks.
On a conference call Wednesday to promote the show, Bryant was asked whether the Oscar has given him more credibility in his new world.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “I mean, it certainly added to it. It’s been an amazing journey. I think the important thing for me is to establish myself within this industry as a serious creator.
“I can write. I can edit. I can produce. I can do those things at a serious level. It’s not something that’s kind of a one-time passion sort of thing. It’s just something that we do every single day.
“Winning an Academy Award certainly helps with that, right? It wasn’t something that I just attached my name to as an executive producer, which most people tend to do. This is something I gave birth to. This is something I actually wrote. This is something that I went out and called Glen [Keane, the animator] and got Glen onboard, called John [Williams, the composer], got John on board, worked with that vision.
“It feels good to be able to have that recognition in that way.”
“Detail” is a product of Bryant’s Granity Studios, his chosen media path for now. He said he has “zero” interest in following fellow former stars of his era into game or studio analysis.
“I love coming to the office writing, editing, creating,” he said. “Building a studio is no small task. It’s all encompassing. I just don’t have the time to sit at a [television] studio and do that.
“If that was my passion, to be able to sit at a studio desk, do that day in, day out, I would certainly do it. That’s not my passion. My passion is writing, creating, putting beautiful stories together, weaving them in the form of a narrative.”
Sounds good, but of course Bryant does benefit from being Kobe Bryant. When someone asked whether he has gotten advice from people in the industry, he reeled off a string of A-list names.
“I’ve been really, really fortunate from a story perspective, dealing with the likes of working with Glen Keane and John Williams,” he said. “Aside from that, J.J. Abrams, George R.R. Martin, Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Steven Spielberg.
“Ron Howard and I had dinner about a week ago. We spent about an hour and a half talking about film and process, all this other stuff. Absolutely, man. I’ve been a sponge my whole career. It’s certainly not going to stop now.”
So, which party tends to be more impressed with the other in such encounters?
“They say, ‘Wow, I’m sitting here with Kobe,’” he said. “Are you [expletive] me? I’m sitting with Spielberg and Howard, sitting at Pixar talking with Pete Docter, Brad Bird. They’re telling me how wonderful [“Dear Basketball”] is, and how did you write this thing? I know they don’t play around. If they don’t like something, they are cut and dry. They’ll tell you to your face the film was a piece of [expletive], and here is why, here is how you can do it better.
“For them to sit here saying, ‘We love this film, it was excellent, that was the greatest thing ever,’ when you’re sitting with Pete Docter, Brad Bird, Lee [Unkrich], who just won an Academy Award for ‘Coco,’ that’s priceless.”
“Detail” will focus on basketball Xs and Os, Bryant said, complete with a clicker in which he will break down game video.
“I felt like it’s important for the next generation to learn how to watch film, how to study the game,” he said. “I felt like if this show was around when I was 10 years old, 11 years old, I would have gained so much insight, so much value from it, that by the time I’m 22, 25, my knowledge of the game would be at a much, much higher level than my predecessors.
“I feel like it’s part of my responsibility to give back to the next generation, try to share and teach some of the things I have learned from some of the great players, great mentors, greats coaches that I’ve had.
“That’s the idea of the show, is to show the next generation, players that are currently playing, as well as players that aspire to be there one day, my process of watching film at its smallest detail, and hopefully they can pull something from that. That’s the goal.”
Bryant said the show will have no interviews, no desk, nothing other than Bryant breaking down what he observes.
“The name ‘Detail’ was pulled for a very specific reason,” he said. “This is content that might not be for everyone, right? It’s really at the smallest, smallest level of basketball breakdown to try to advance in a series.”
Bryant, 39, who retired in 2016, said he is able to watch the playoffs without missing being on the court himself.
“I have this other thing that is calling me that I enjoy doing,” he said. “I’m completely focused on that. I can watch a game, feel nothing at all. There’s no angst, there’s no, ‘Man, I want to get back out there.’ There’s literally zero of that.
“Now when I watch the game, I watch it from the perspective that I’m looking at things that are happening, things that my mind can process from years and years of studying film. But now I’m just taking that information and applying it in artful way to the show ‘Detail.’
“Thank God I haven’t completely struggled watching playoffs. I’d be going crazy, dude. So fortunate enough for me, like, I’ve really been able to move on from the game.”