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Film academy to acknowledge Kobe Bryant’s death at the Oscars

Kobe at the Governors Ball
Kobe Bryant with wife Vanessa, showing off his Oscar for best animated short at the 90th Academy Awards Governors Ball.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Joining other tributes that have poured in from around the world, the motion picture academy plans to acknowledge the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant at next month’s Oscars ceremony.

The specific details are being kept under wraps at this time. The Oscars telecast has long included an “In Memoriam” segment to acknowledge notable members of the Hollywood community who passed away that year, but it is unclear whether Bryant will receive a separate tribute. Bryant won an Academy Award in 2018 for producing and writing the five-minute animated short “Dear Basketball.”

The Hollywood Reporter first reported the academy’s plans.

Kobe Bryant’s Oscar-winning short film, “Dear Basketball,” was made available to view online Monday, but now it has been taken down.
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On Monday, at the annual nominees luncheon, academy President David Rubin led 162 of this year’s Oscar contenders — including such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio — in a moment of silence in memory of the Lakers star, his daughter Gianna and seven others who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas Sunday.

Rubin noted that Bryant himself had attended the luncheon as a nominee two years ago. “With all his mega-success on the court, he was possibly the most excited person in the room to be a nominee,” Rubin recalled. “I know we all send his family our deepest heartfelt condolences.”

In his post-retirement career, Bryant was developing further storytelling projects in film and other media through his production company, Granity Studios.

But despite his Oscar win and a recommendation for academy membership by the short films and feature animation branch, he was denied an invitation to join the organization in 2018 by the academy’s 54-member board of governors, owing to his lack of lack of a larger body of work in the film industry.

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As was widely noted at the time, with the academy having recently adopted a new code of conduct for members in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Bryant’s inclusion could have raised thorny questions for the organization. A sexual assault case had been brought against Bryant in 2003, which was ultimately dropped and was later the subject of a civil settlement.

The fact is, though relatively rare, it is not unprecedented for Oscar nominees and even winners to be denied invitations to join the academy. For example, despite winning an Oscar for the 2016 Pixar short “Piper,” producer Marc Sondheimer did not earn an invitation to join the group, nor did Nick Vallelonga and Brian Currie, who won the Oscar for original screenplay last year for “Green Book,” or Yalitza Aparicio, who earned a lead actress nomination for “Roma.”

On Sunday, as the news of Bryant’s death sent shock waves through Los Angeles and beyond, the academy paid tribute to him on social media, writing, “They doubted a kid could make it in the NBA and he proved them wrong. They doubted he could win a championship and he proved them wrong. They doubted he could make movies and he won an Oscar. Like all great artists, Kobe Bryant proved the doubters wrong.”

Since Bryant’s death, numerous sports and entertainment institutions have honored the NBA star. At Sunday’s Grammy Awards — held at the Staples Center, where he played his entire career with the Lakers and where a crowd of mourners had gathered — host Alicia Keys dedicated the show to Bryant’s memory, performing “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” accompanied by Boyz II Men and calling the venue “the house that Kobe built.”

The Academy Awards will air live from Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre Feb. 9.


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