Kobe Bryant is coming to New York, sort of

03.18.09 9 years ago

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The Tribeca Film Festival announced today that Spike Lee new documentary on the Los Angeles Laker and last year’s NBA Most Valuable Player, “Kobe Doin’ Work,” will be the gala premiere of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival on April 25. 

With “unprecedented access” Lee followed Bryant as the Lakers battled the San Antonio Spurs during the 2008 NBA Playoffs.  The filmmaker followed the basketball superstar off and on the court. 

Unlike Michael Jordan, who Lee worked with on a number of Nike TV campaigns, and who the filmmaker is following for a separate documentary, Bryant has never achieved the universal popularity the Chicago Bull received during his legendary NBA career.  Bryant’s image has been tarnished by years of public feuding with teammate Shaquille O’Neal when both players teamed up for three straight NBA Championships, and more significantly, when Colorado prosecutors accused him of  sexual assault in 2003. Those charges will ultimately dropped, but it has taken Bryant years to restore the commercial endorsements he lost because of the controversy.  Bryant also has been accused by the media (and smart fans) of hiding behind a “fake” demeanor in public.  Certainly, the questions “Who is Kobe Bryant? What does he really think?” have never really been answered.  It’s unclear whether Lee will be able to bring anything new or honest from the player to the surface.

There is also some irony that the film will debut at Tribeca considering Bryant is one of the most beloved sports figures in Los Angeles and when he was campaigning to be traded after the 2007 season the New York Knicks were prime suitors for her services.  Lee is well known for being a huge Knicks fan and has been a sideshow at a number of major games at MSG.

The documentary also has the distinction of the featuring the first film score by Bruce Hornsby who also wrote and performed the original song “Levitate.”  Again, a Kobe Bryant documentary scored by…Bruce Hornsby.

While Lee is primarily known for his narrative masterworks “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X,” he’s also directed a number of critically acclaimed documentaries including “4 Little Girls” and the Emmy-winning “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.”  Lee also wrote and directed one of the most realistic and underrated basketball movies of all time “He Got Game” with Denzel Washington and Ray Allen.  (Another irony, Allen who played a league saving character in “Game,” is known for his extremely competitive on the court relationship with Bryant.)

Unable to make it to New York? Not to worry, “Kobe Doin’ Work” will be televised Sat. May 16 at 7:30 PM on ESPN.

The 2009 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 22 through May 3 in and around the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan.

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