Kobe Bryant may be gone, but never forgotten. The NBA star and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were honored in a beautiful public memorial held in downtown Los Angeles on Monday. During the service, Bryant's beloved Dear Basketball film was screened for the crowd inside Staples Center.
The athlete -- who played with the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years -- announced his retirement on Nov. 29, 2015, by penning an emotional poem about his passion for the sport. The letter, titled "Dear Basketball," was published in The Players' Tribune.
"Dear Basketball, From the moment I started rolling my dad’s tube socks and shooting imaginary game-winning shots in the Great Western Forum, I knew one thing was real: I fell in love with you. A love so deep I gave you my all -- from my mind & body to my spirit & soul," Bryant wrote. "As a six-year-old boy deeply in love with you, I never saw the end of the tunnel. I only saw myself Running out of one. And so I ran. I ran up and down every court after every loose ball for you. You asked for my hustle, I gave you my heart. Because it came with so much more."
"I played through the sweat and hurt. Not because challenge called me but because YOU called me. I did everything for YOU. Because that’s what you do when someone makes you feel as alive as you’ve made me feel," he continued. "You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream. And I'll always love you for it. But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer. This season is all I have left to give. My heart can take the pounding. My mind can handle the grind. But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye. And that’s OK."
Speaking to basketball, Bryant added that he is "ready to let you go."
"I want you to know now so we both can savor every moment we have left together. The good and the bad. We have given each other. All that we have," he continued. "And we both know, no matter what I do next. I'll always be that kid with the rolled up socks. Garbage can in the corner. :05 seconds on the clock, ball in my hands. 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1. Love you always, Kobe."
The poem was later turned into an animated short film with the same name. Narrated by Bryant with animation by Glen Keane and music by John Williams, it scored the NBA legend an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018.
When Bryant talked to ET ahead of the ceremony, he expressed what the nomination and being at the Oscars meant to him.
"It's a little surreal, to be honest with you," shared Bryant, who officially retired from the NBA in 2016. "It's starting to sink in just how crazy this evening is. It's unbelievable."
"Never in my wildest dreams did I feel we'd be here at the Oscars nominated for an Oscar," he added. "That's insane."