Kobe Bryant's Final Season With Lakers Was Filmed for Documentary Similar to 'The Last Dance'
By Jack Maloney, CBS Sports
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Last weekend was the premiere of The Last Dance, the long-awaited 10-part documentary series detailing Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls' 1997-98 season -- the final one for that historic dynasty. There's been plenty of talking points coming out of the first two episodes, one of which is wondering what other teams or players would be interesting subjects for a similar project.
The Golden State Warriors were an obvious choice, but they actually decided against documenting one of their championship runs in a similar way. One player who did have his final season captured on film, however, was Kobe Bryant as it was known that the Lakers legend had a personal camera crew follow him and the team during the 2015-16 campaign. And in fact, plans were in place for a lengthy documentary about his last run with the Los Angeles Lakers before his tragic death earlier this year. Now, it's unclear what will happen with that footage, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN.
Sources close to the matter told ESPN that the footage had been in the editing stages for a potential documentary to be released years from now -- though it is unclear when exactly that would be -- and that Bryant had seen edited material and provided feedback in the months leading up to his death. It is unlikely those plans have changed, the sources said.
The sources told ESPN that rather than have anyone else chronicle his season, Bryant, who had produced and starred in his 2015 documentary Muse, ultimately sought control over the footage, which is why he decided it was best to have his own camera crew take on such a project, especially as Bryant worked to build his own post-NBA media empire.
Obviously, the main difference between The Last Dance and any potential Bryant documentary is that the Bulls were pushing for, and ended up winning their sixth title, while the Lakers were struggling through the worst season in franchise history. Bryant is such a fascinating person that there would still be enough for an interesting story there, but it wouldn't have the same type of historical importance that The Last Dance does.
And then, of course, there's the matter of Bryant's death. How it would factor into production of the documentary -- The Last Dance wasn't able to be produced until Jordan signed off on releasing the footage, and Bryant may have wanted similar creative control -- and how it would be included, if it all, are both unclear.
In any case, as Holmes' reporting indicates, any film is still years away. Whenever it is eventually released, it will surely be a must-watch.
This story was originally published by CBS Sports on April 24, 2020 at 3:02 p.m. ET.