Kobe Bryant hired film crew for 'unprecedented' Lakers access in final season

Kobe Bryant’s final season with the Los Angeles Lakers was covered by a personal film crew given unprecedented access and the footage could turn into a documentary released years down the road, ESPN reported Friday.

Is a Bryant ‘Last Dance’-like documentary next?

The crew filmed all aspects of Bryant’s 20th and final season in 2015-16, just as an NBA Entertainment crew did for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Those clips turned into ESPN’s 10-part docuseries “The Last Dance” that continues Sunday.

The footage from Bryant’s finale has been in the editing stages for a potential documentary and Bryant saw edited materials and provided feedback in late 2019, per ESPN. He reportedly hired his own crew for control over the footage and as part of his post-NBA career foray into media.

Bryant hosted the ESPN+ show “Details” to break down basketball players’ talents. He won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2017 for “Dear Basketball” and also wrote books through his Granity Studios.

It is “unlikely” plans for a documentary have changed, per ESPN, after Bryant and seven others died in a helicopter crash in January.

Bryant’s crews given unlimited access

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant waves to the crowd during a ceremony before Bryant's last NBA basketball game, against the Utah Jazz, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Kobe Bryant reportedly viewed the footage from camera crews he hired in his final Lakers season for a potential documentary. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Bryant had as many as six personal camera crews on site during his 60-point finale against the Jazz. They reportedly were present in both home and away locker rooms, the Lakers practice facility and team plane, and the training room despite its typical off-limits status to any and all cameras.


"They had unprecedented and, by far, greater access than anyone else ever," said John Black, who led the Lakers' public relations department for 27 years, last serving as vice president. "We certainly allowed them to do everything we could within what the league would allow, and sometimes, with a wink and look-the-other-way, allowed them even more."

An anonymous staffer told ESPN they couldn’t ask the camera crews to turn the cameras off if they deemed footage too sensitive or off limits like they could with those for Spectrum SportsNet’s all-access TV show.

Bryant’s final season less a team accomplishment

The biggest difference between Jordan’s final season and Bryant’s is that Jordan won a sixth and final NBA championship with the Bulls while Bryant’s Lakers had their worst season (17-65) in franchise history.

That was also a difficulty for teammates, they told ESPN, though they realized down the road it would be nice to have behind-the-scenes footage of the monumental moments.

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