The Man Has Passed Away But His Legend And Inspiration Live On

Fans, teammates, and loved ones around the world have been left in shock after the death of Kobe Bryant. The 41-year old basketball legend was killed in a helicopter crash, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, leaving a devasting gap in the lives of so many.

Memorials to Bryant have been flooding in and showing that his influence and his inspiration went far beyond the court. Known for his meticulousness, dedication, and competitive spirit, Bryant’s own battle with injuries and ability to persevere made him a role model to millions. In LA, home of the Lakers, the sense of loss is palpable.

Looking for comfort and answers, many fans have turned to “Dear Basketball”, a short animated film that was both a love-letter from Bryant to the sport and an announcement of his retirement after the 2015-16 season. The stunning pencil animations follow Bryant’s career, from a young boy to a multi-time MVP and Olympic champion. Former Disney animator Glen Keane worked with Bryant to bring his retirement poem to life — and it’s clear he brought the same dedication and passion to the film that he brought to everything he touched.

 

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

 

“Kobe was the most passionate man who was led by his heart and his intellect,” Keane explained. “He was a great thinker with an insatiable hunger for learning: As soon as he stepped into animation, he eagerly began soaking up every aspect of it. Working with him was a dream and one of the high points of my career.”

The film would go on to win the Academy Award for best animated short in 2018, as well as the Annie Award — largely considered to be the animation industry’s most prestigious prize.

The short film is no longer available online but the official trailer is below:

 

There are so many elements of this tragedy that are impossible to process. Losing a sports legend, his young daughter with an aspiring basketball career of her own, and seven other lives in such a sudden accident is shattering.

But this is a man whose legend will live on — and it will burn far more brightly than his record-breaking statistics. While he may have been a man who changed the shape of the game, he was also a dedicated father, an avid philanthropist both at home and through his foundation in China, a creative and perceptive soul with a boundless capacity to give. But more than that, more than any of that, he was — and he is — an inspiration to any six-year-old with a dream.

Dear Basketball

By Kobe Bryant

Dear Basketball,

From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have. 

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

Love you always,
Kobe