What Kobe Bryant's Life Was Really Like After Retiring From The NBA

Many L.A. Lakers fans were heartbroken when Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from the NBA in November 2015. "You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream. And I'll always love you for it," Kobe shared in a poem titled "Dear Basketball," posted to The Player's Tribune. "But I can't love you obsessively for much longer. This season is all I have left to give." 

Although it was sad to see the basketball legend leave behind something he had held dear for so long, Kobe didn't disappoint after hanging up his uniform. In fact, some might argue he hit his professional and creative stride after his career as a player came to a close. From winning an impressive award in a field completely different from sports to enjoying a renaissance in his family life, the athlete was in the midst of a new and exciting chapter when he and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, died in a horrific helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, along with seven other people. 

As countless fans mourn the loss of one of L.A.'s "greatest heroes," let's take a closer look at what Kobe Bryant's life was really like after retiring from the NBA.

Kobe Bryant won an Oscar

Behind Kobe Bryant's athletic prowess was a creative man inspired to tell his complex life story through art. In fact, the NBA star transformed his retirement poem, "Dear Basketball," into an Oscar-nominated short. The project features Kobe narrating the poem over a hand-drawn animation depicting his life from childhood to adulthood. It's a moving visual vignette that earned him critical praise. 

"I love storytelling and writing and producing, and working with other young talent to bring stories to life to either inform or inspire or challenge the next generation," Bryant said, via Deadline. "I figured this project would let me create something that would let the next generation look at and process and interpret how they see fit."

Kobe won an Academy Award for best animated short in 2018, sharing this inspirational message in his acceptance speech: "I mean, as basketball players, we are really supposed to shut up and dribble. But I am glad we do a little bit more than that."

Kobe Bryant was committed to inspiring young kids

Kobe Bryant could have easily spent his retirement coasting on his $600 million fortune, but he chose to focus on inspiring young children instead. In August 2018, Kobe launched a podcast for kids called The Punies, featuring scripted audio stories centering around a character called Puny Pete. Created and directed by the ex-NBA player, Puny Pete is "ambitious and determined, yet meek and insecure with a fear of failure," per Collider. Pete is surrounded by an "emotionally diverse group of kids who love to play sports together." 

Bryant based the series on his childhood, stating in a press release: "Having spent my whole life playing basketball, there were many times I wasn't on the winning team. However, those experiences ultimately proved the most valuable because they taught me perseverance, determination, and teamwork. As the father of athletes myself, I created 'The Punies' so that these stories will not only entertain the whole family but inspire young listeners to reach their full potential."

The Punies was in its second season at the time of Bryant's passing.

Kobe Bryant took on Gatorade

Kobe Bryant took on one of the biggest names in sports — Gatorade — by becoming a major investor in a competing sports drink called BodyArmor. According to Business Insider, Bryant wrote and directed a series of ads for the company that threw some serious shade at the competition. Featuring a slew of big-name athletes, the spots suggested that other sports drinks are outdated, and like sinking a game-winning shot at the buzzer, Bryant's spots concluded with the tagline: "Thanks, Gatorade. We'll take it from here."

Company CEO Mike Repole said Bryant's input proved invaluable. "When I teamed up with Kobe, I thought I was getting an elite basketball player with great vision," he said, per ESPN. "I wound up with an Oscar winner who has his fingerprints all over our creative that we deeply benefited from. He invested his money to be part of the brand versus an endorsement deal. He was in when we had 20 million in sales, so consider him a co-founder."

Kobe Bryant was loving family life

After announcing his retirement, Kobe Bryant spoke to the Los Angeles Times about his kids' reaction to his post-NBA life. "They understand the concept that this is something that I've been doing since I was 3," he explained. "This is my entire life. It's like, 'Dad's losing that passion now. He's not going to be able to do that same thing he's done forever.' But at the same time, I'll be around a lot more. So they're excited about that." 

Kobe was certainly capitalizing on quality time with his beautiful family. Every other photo on his Instagram account was an adorable shot of his kids, whether it was a family outing for Halloween (in 2019 they dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz,) or a pic of him swimming in a pool with one of his daughters. The basketball legend was an exceptionally proud papa when he announced the arrival of his fourth baby, Capri, in June 2019.

One of Kobe's greatest passions was watching his daughter, Gianna Bryant, mature into a basketball star. Bryant described that dynamic to late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. "...fans will come up to me and she'll be standing next to me and they'll be like 'You gotta have a boy ... You gotta have somebody to carry on the tradition and the legacy, and she's like, 'Oy, I got this.' ...  I'm like, 'That's right.'"