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#pounditMonday, October 18, 2021

Kobe Bryant’s final season with Lakers was documented with all-access film crew

Kobe Bryant
The already popular documentary series “The Last Dance” was made possible by camera crews being granted incredible access to the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, and it has given fans an opportunity to learn things about Michael Jordan’s legendary career that were not previously public information. Could we one day see a similar documentary about Kobe Bryant’s final NBA season?

Bryant had his own personal camera crew following the Los Angeles Lakers’ every move during the 2015-16 season, which was Kobe’s last in the NBA. According to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, the crew had “unprecedented access” even beyond what the Lakers’ television partners were granted. As one former team staffer described to Holmes, there was always the option to tell camera crews from TV networks to stop recording if they were gathering footage in an off-limits area or if the cameras were rolling at an uncomfortable time. Bryant’s crew, however, essentially did whatever it wanted.

Former Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. was reminded of that season while watching “The Last Dance” on Sunday night, and he described the experience to Holmes.

“It was like, ‘All right, we got to really watch what we’re saying, watch what we’re talking about, because you have no idea who’s watching or editing this,'” Nance said. “That’s something we all kind of talked about as a team is like, ‘Hey, you never know where this is going. So let’s just keep it mellow around the cameras.’

“But then the longer the year went on, you just forget about them and just kind of stopped caring.”

There was likely plenty of behind-the-scenes drama in Kobe’s final season with the Lakers, though the situation was much different from what went on with the 1997-98 Bulls. Whereas Chicago won its sixth championship the season camera crews were following the team, the Lakers went 17-65 in Kobe’s final year. Bryant missed several games due to injury, and cameras were even given the rare privilege of access to the training room.

Sources told Holmes Kobe wanted control over the footage and had seen edited material and provided feedback in the months before he died in a helicopter crash. The plan was for a potential documentary to be released years from now, which could reportedly still happen.

Bryant was one of the most polarizing figures in sports history, so any documentary about his final NBA season would have been must-see TV even with him alive. Now that he has died, fan interest will almost certainly be even higher if and when the film or series is completed.

We have already seen some incredible content featuring Jordan in “The Last Dance,” and fans can only hope for a similar gift of behind-the-scenes footage from Kobe’s career.

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