An Oscar for Kobe Bryant, and a jab at a critic

Kobe Bryant poses with his award for best animated short during the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony on March 4, 2018.
Kobe Bryant poses with his award for best animated short during the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony on March 4, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - Joining Frances McDormand, Jordan Peele and Gary Oldman in accepting Academy Awards on Sunday night was someone more readily associated with other kinds of honors: Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, who retired from the NBA in 2016, was involved in turning a poem he wrote into a film, Dear Basketball, that won the prize for best animated short.

The film depicts Bryant as a child dreaming of basketball glory and as an NBA star. Bryant said the film was "about the emotional journey of having a dream, believing it'll come true; it comes true, then the realization that you have to wake up from that dream and move on to another."

Bryant surrounded himself with first-rate teammates in creating the film, including John Williams, the five-time Oscar-winning composer, and Glen Keane, a former Disney animator.

In accepting his award, Bryant said: "As basketball players we're supposed to shut up and dribble. I'm glad we do a little but more than that." It was an allusion to recent comments made by the conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, who scolded basketball players who had criticized President Donald Trump to keep their political opinions to themselves and "shut up and dribble."

The New York Times critic Glenn Kenny said the animation of Dear Basketball" had "gorgeous fluency," but that the film was "substance-free, an advertisement for itself. It deserves to not receive an Oscar for that reason alone."

Dear Basketball triumphed over Garden Party, about animals taking over a deserted mansion; Lou, about the contents of a lost and found box teaching a lesson to a bully; Negative Space, about learning to pack a suitcase; and Revolting Rhymes, a Roald Dahl adaptation.

In a year with intense focus on improper sexual behavior by men, many of them in the entertainment industry, Bryant's victory caused a stir.

An outcry when the film was nominated repeated itself on Sunday (March 4) night, with some viewers and commentators pointing out that Bryant had been accused of rape in 2003. That case was ultimately dropped when the accuser declined to testify. Bryant said he believed the encounter was consensual, but acknowledged later that the woman did not.

Others, including Shaquille O'Neal, sent Bryant their congratulations. (O'Neal was overlooked for an Oscar for his lead role as a genie in "Kazaam.") Bryant's Oscar joins a silverware collection that includes a Most Valuable Player Award, two NBA Finals MVPs, and five NBA titles.