The success of ESPN’s The Last Dance has led to many fans wondering if there any similar documentaries in the works, featuring an embedded film crew documenting the final season of a legendary player’s career. It appears that at least one player had the necessary footage for the same type of film, and that player was Kobe Bryant.
According to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, a film crew followed Bryant and the Lakers during the 2015-16 season, gaining unique access to Bryant and his teammates.
Bryant’s camera crew, several Lakers staffers from that season said, had unparalleled access in locker rooms both at home and on the road, in the training room, throughout the team’s practice facility and even on the team’s charter plane.
“They had unprecedented and, by far, greater access than anyone else ever,” said John Black, who led the Lakers’ public relations department for 27 years, last serving as vice president. “We certainly allowed them to do everything we could within what the league would allow, and sometimes, with a wink and look-the-other-way, allowed them even more.”
However, while the footage was shot and clearly exists, the project itself remains in limbo following Bryant’s tragic death earlier this year.
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 — thought 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.
Here’s the main difference between Kobe’s last season and The Last Dance – the Lakers were absolutely horrible that year, while the 1997-98 Bulls won their third NBA title in a row. There’s a way to make an interesting documentary following a bad team (SEE: Netflix’s Sunderland Til I Die), but if this project ever gets off the ground, it’s going to be very tough for it to both celebrate the final season of Kobe’s career while also accurately portraying the farce of that Lakers season.