Retired basketball star Kobe Bryant has won five NBA titles, but taking home an Oscar on his first attempt was a bigger thrill than the victories earned with the Los Angeles Lakers, the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer says.
"I feel better than winning the championship, to be honest with you. I swear I do," Bryant told news media backstage after accepting the Academy Award for Dear Basketball, the animated short film he wrote and produced.
"To be here right now and to have like ... a sense of validation is ... this is crazy, man," Bryant added. "It's crazy."
Dear Basketball is based on the National Basketball Association great's 2015 poem, published on the Player's Tribune website, announcing his final NBA season. Bryant narrated the five-minute film, which was directed by Glen Keane and scored by Oscar winner John Williams.
The film shows top moments from Bryant's career animated in hand-drawn images while he recites the letter about his devotion to the sport from a young age and a body that will no longer allow him to compete at the highest level.
Bryant, who played 20 seasons, has started his own production company in retirement, Kobe Studios. He told news media he sought out Oprah Winfrey and TV producer Shonda Rhimes for guidance when he launched the studio.
Bryant shared his advice for athletes navigating retirement, which can often be daunting, as many are often young and have to fill their time after decades of training and competition.
"The hardest thing for athletes to do is when you start over, you really have to quiet the ego and you have to ... begin again," Bryant said.
"You have to be a learner all over again. You have to learn the basics of things, and, you know, that's really the hardest part."
Australian Associated Press