As it turned out, Bryant wouldn’t soon be leaving the “realm of imagination.” When the 2018 Oscars ceremony rolled around, airing on March 4 of that year, Bryant and Keane wound up beating the competition and taking home the coveted prize. The Best Animated Short Film win for “Dear Basketball” was significant for both men in different ways: it marked the first time an NBA player won an Oscar in that category, and signified the first-ever Academy Award nomination and win for Keane.
Taking the stage with Keane to accept the award — presented by Star Wars franchise actors Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, and Kelly Marie Tran – Bryant offered hilarious and heartfelt words.
“As basketball players, we’re really supposed to shut up and dribble, but I’m glad we did a little more than that,” he said with a smile, causing the ceremony attendees to let out a collective laugh. (This was in reference to conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham once telling LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” instead of criticizing politicians like President Donald Trump.) Bryant continued, “Thank you, Academy, for this amazing honor. Thank you, John Williams, for such a wonderful piece of music. Thank you, Verizon, for believing in the film. Thank you, [executive producer] Molly Carter — without you, we wouldn’t be here.”
He concluded by telling his family that he loved them with all his heart, speaking briefly in Italian, which he learned as a child while living overseas: “And to my wife Vanessa [and] our daughters Natalia, Gianna, Bianka – ti amo con tutto il mio cuore. You are my inspiration.”