Kobe Bryant's 'The Last Dance'-Style Doc Discussed by Ex-Lakers Players, Execs

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2020

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2012, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, reacts along with coach Mike Brown after being called for a technical foul during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 96-91. Brown has embraced getting another shot coaching a team like Golden State. A moment Brown knows might be most temporary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who had another procedure last Friday, May 5, 2017, for a spinal fluid leak, might be back before this postseason ends. He might not. Brown has coached some of the game's biggest stars, from LeBron James to Bryant to now Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

If Kobe Bryant's final season is ever the subject of a The Last Dance-style documentary, his story will end far differently than Michael Jordan's. 

While Bryant scored 60 points in his final game, the pose of his final shot came in the waning seconds of a regular-season game for a 17-win team—not with his hand raised as he knocked down a game-clinching shot in the NBA Finals.

"It was a tough year," former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told Bill Oram of The Athletic. "It's not the script you want to write. The script is you win a championship and you retire. That's the script. Not playing with a bunch of young kids, winning 17 games, being hurt the whole time, not being able to practice. That's not the script."

Like Jordan, Bryant provided a film crew unprecedented access to his final NBA season. The crew followed Bryant and the Lakers in locker rooms and team planes. Bryant hired the film crew and his family owns the archival footage after he was one of nine people who died in a January helicopter crash that also killed his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Whereas the final three (pre-Wizards) years of Jordan's career were spent adding titles to his mantle, Bryant's were riddled with injuries and disappointment. He was limited to six games in 2013-14 after rupturing his Achilles, and several more injuries limited him to 35 games in 2014-15. 

While Bryant was on the floor for 66 games during his final run, the previous two years took their toll. Bryant averaged just 17.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting a career-low 35.8 percent from the floor. There were also internal tensions, with the Lakers in the midst of a rebuild around young players as Kobe tried to write the final chapter of his career. 

"I think management and ownership were in a bind," former Lakers center Robert Sacre said. "I wouldn't want to be in that situation for the fact that they want to make sure their superstar goes out the right way as they want to develop young players. You want your knight in shining armor to ride off in glory, but at the same time, how do you balance making sure guys are prepared for the future? I don't know the right answer to that to be honest with you."

Disappointing season aside, Bryant did provide fans with one more classic moment in his final game, dropping 60 points in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz. The Lakers trailed by 10 points with 2:35 remaining, and Bryant single-handedly went on a 13-0 run to push his team to a win—getting cheered off the court triumphantly, even if it wasn't everything he expected or wanted.

From a documentary perspective, the story of the failures may wind up being as interesting as Jordan's triumphs.