In 2018, Kobe Bryant accepted his first ever Oscar. Two years later, the five-time NBA champion was honored at the 2020 Academy Awards on Feb. 9, after passing away in a tragic helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other victims just two weeks before the show. Spike Lee led the way when it came to tributes. He showed up on the Oscars red carpet wearing a purple and gold suit jacket, which had the number 24 emblazoned on the front and back. The purple and yellow colors were a nod to Kobe’s basketball team, the Los Angeles Lakers, while the ’24’ was a reference to the number that he wore on the team.
Later in the show, Matthew A. Cherry dedicated his award for Best Animated Short Film to Kobe as well. “May we all have a second act as great as his was,” he said. And then, of course, Kobe was honored in the In Memoriam segment, towards the end of the ceremony.
Although Kobe is known for his basketball legacy, the Los Angeles Lakers alum became the first ever black person to win “Best Animated Short.” He was honored for his animated film, Dear Basketball, which was inspired by the letter he penned for The Players’ Tribune that broke news of his basketball retirement in 2015. Glen Keane animated the short film, but Kobe both directed and wrote the piece, proving that he was a true multi-hyphenate; Kobe’s skills weren’t just limited to the court. “I mean, as basketball players, we’re really supposed to shut up and dribble,” Kobe had said during his memorable acceptance speech. “I’m glad we do a little bit more than that.”
This is the second major award show to honor Kobe with a special tribute. The first was the Grammy Awards, which took place on the same day Kobe’s helicopter crashed into a hillside near Calabasas, CA amid a flight to Gianna and her teammates’ basketball tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park on Jan. 26. The tragedy took place just hours before the music industry’s biggest night, but Grammys host Alicia Keys and ’90s R&B group Boyz II Men still managed to pull together a meaningful tribute performance.
"May we all have a second act as great as his was." #HairLove's @MatthewACherry dedicated his #Oscars win for best animated short film to Kobe Bryant https://t.co/HJv0WT4YkL pic.twitter.com/ZnRkfP4w5R
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 10, 2020
Outside of award shows, countless fans, friends and family have shared tributes for Kobe on social media. Out of all these thoughtful posts, sentimental throwback pictures and online letters, Kobe’s wife Vanessa Bryant, 37, broke her silence on the tragedy with her own tribute on Jan. 29. Vanessa revealed that she and her other daughters — Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 mos. — were “completely devastated,” and Vanessa proceeded to share photos of the special ceremony that Gianna’s school held for Kobe’s protégé in the following days. A “Celebration Of Life” memorial will be held for both Kobe and Gianna at LA’s Staples Center, where the Lakers played many of its games, on Feb. 24.