Composer John Williams had never seen a basketball game — high school, college or pro.
Yet when L.A. Lakers legend Kobe Bryant called about scoring a five-minute animated short based on his farewell poem to the sport, the five-time Oscar winner interrupted his work on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to comply.
The short is called “Dear Basketball,” and Williams and Bryant aren’t the only legends involved. It was animated by Glen Keane.
“Right from the beginning Kobe really wanted this to feel as hand-crafted as possible,” Keane says. “It was also very important that, for our composer, we have somebody who’s not just using a synthesizer, but real instruments in an orchestra. Something very personal.”
Bryant wrote the poem — a love letter that chronicles his sports obsession from the time he was 6 — in November 2015, five months before his retirement at age 37. Keane began work in spring 2016; animating it took about nine months. Williams recorded his music in March 2017.
“It was pretty wonderful to think that the ‘Star Wars’ orchestra was being used for this short but very emotional film on Kobe’s amazing life,” Keane says. “John’s work lifts you emotionally. He really supported what I was trying to do with my animation, and what I thought Kobe delivered in his narration.”
“Dear Basketball” is one of only three shorts Williams has scored in his career, and the only animated one. He performed it live last summer at the Hollywood Bowl, with Bryant narrating.
“What’s important about this film is that it tells us that Kobe’s life is meaningful, contributive and finally, inspirational,” Williams says. “Not just to young people who aspire to athletic careers but to people in general, of all ages.”