While the Oscars are a celebration typically aimed at congratulating big names in Hollywood, every year a handful of people from outside the movie industry walk away with a golden statue. At this Sunday’s 90th Annual Academy Awards, former NBA phenom and five-time champion Kobe Bryant added an Oscar to his extensive trophy collection by winning the Best Animated Short for Dear Basketball.
Dear Basketball is an animated short set to a poem written by Bryant in 2015. The poem, an homage to the game around which Bryant built his life, also served as means of signaling his looming retirement. Bryant shared the award with Disney animator Glen Keane, who is best known for spearheading the animation on famous projects like The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Pocahontas, and Aladdin.
For Glen, animation is not just his passion, it’s the family business. He’s the son of cartoonist Bil Keane who’s famous for animating the syndicated comic strip, The Family Circus. In fact, a young Glen served as the inspiration for Billy, one of the strip’s main characters. In the comics, Billy was always portrayed as having his own agenda, which Bil based on his son’s personality.
“Glen was the personification of Billy growing up,” said Bil in an interview with People. “Still is. He’s the All-American boy. Rambunctious, extroverted. Always the ringleader.”
At first glance, Glen and Bryant may seem like an odd couple but in many ways, their partnership makes perfect sense. Much like Keane and Billy, Bryant is known for living by his own rules. Having retired from basketball, Bryant is now pursuing a career as a writer. And while Bryant is universally considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, before his big win on Sunday, many scoffed at the idea of him branching into writing as a post-basketball career. But now, the sky appears to be the limit for Bryant the author, who is working on a series of novels.
“I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to write, I can’t wait to get to the studio,” said Bryant.