Update: This story was originally published on Feb. 9, 2020 at 2:45 PM.
Spike Lee's bright purple suit trimmed with Lakers' yellow lining and embroidered with the number "24" on his lapels and the back of his jacket was the first glimpse of the 92nd Oscars tribute to the late Kobe Bryant. Coming on the heels of the Lakers tribute to Bryant after his tragic passing, and touching tributes at the Super Bowl and the 2020 Grammys, the Feb. 9 telecast including several moments that honored the NBA star not just as a father and a basketball player, but as an Oscar winner: Kobe Bryant won Best Animated Short Film in 2018 for Dear Basketball, which he wrote and narrated.
After Lee gave an emotional interview to Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet, the tributes continued with former football player Matthew A. Cherry accepting the same award Bryant did in 2018 for Best Animated Short for his film, Hair Love. Accepting his award with Karen Rupert Toliver, Cherry ended his speech with a nod to Bryant: “This award is dedicated to Kobe Bryant. May we all have as great a second act as he had," he said.
Leading up to the ceremony, Oscars producer Stephanie Allain told the Los Angeles Times that Bryant's tribute would be part of the In Memoriam segment of the Academy Awards that honors all the people of the film industry that we lost in the last year. "I think what's really appropriate is that Kobe was part of the film community, and as such, he will be embraced within the In Memoriam section," Allain said.
Bryant's tribute opened the In Memoriam. As Billie Eilish sang "Yesterday," a photo of Bryant holding his Oscar with a quote that read, "Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged," flashed across the screen.
When Bryant won the Oscar for the short, he thanked a long list of people ending with his wife Vanessa Bryant and his daughters, whom he called his inspiration — not only for the film, but in life.
The five-minute short is an animated version of a poem written by Bryant in 2015 when he was gearing up to retire from the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of that season. The full poem, which can be read here, is Bryant's ode to the sport and how he fell in love with it as a child. He wrote about how much he put into the game and how he felt about leaving it behind, but also how it would also always be a part of him.
The final section of the poem reads:
"And we both know, no matter what I do next, I'll always be that kid with the rolled up socks, garbage can in the corner, :05 seconds on the clock, ball in my hands. 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1."
In the animated short, a young Bryant sinks the basket following that line, just like he did so many times as a professional basketball player.
A one-minute trailer of the short is available for free (above). It contains the aforementioned section above as well as a couple of other clips. The full animated short is available for purchase on Amazon in a collection with the other 2018 Oscar nominated shorts.
Bryant said after winning the Academy Award, "I feel better than winning a championship, to be honest with you. I swear I do.'' And now he'll be remembered Sunday night in part for that very achievement.