Kobe Bryant on life after basketball, next step producing films

Bryant has the likes of JJ Abrams, Spielberg for mentors.

ByMICHAEL ROTHMAN and SABINA GHEBREMEDHIN
June 03, 2016, 12:54 PM
PHOTO: Kobe Bryant speaks onstage at the 2016 Milken Institute Global Conference on May 03, 2016 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Kobe Bryant speaks onstage at the 2016 Milken Institute Global Conference on May 03, 2016 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Joe Scarnici/WireImage/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant has been here before.

In a warehouse of the growing art district in downtown Los Angeles, Bryant quietly and calmly enters a room full of basketball stars and top-notch gamers. It's a blend of cultures that is becoming more common as eGaming becomes a full-fledged career, not just a passion.

Tonight's prize: $250,000. The game: NBA2K and it's the gaming giant's first eSports event.

Paul George is the cover star for 2K17, Kobe Bryant is on the cover of the Legend Edition. That's a first.

Bryant has graced the cover of countless magazines and games over his 20-year career, but this is the first time post-retirement and in the "legends" category, something the icon seems content with, or maybe he's just still glowing from his epic 60-point final game in April to close out his storied career.

"I haven't been antsy or anything like that, I've been keeping busy," he told ABC News when asked whether he's itching to get back in the game after just a month out. "It feels like my career has been a blur. Here we are today discussing this game, me being a legend in it; that's a dream come true."

PHOTO: Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is defended by Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors during the second half of the basketball game at Staples Center March 6, 2016, in Los Angeles, Calif.
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is defended by Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors during the second half of the basketball game at Staples Center March 6, 2016, in Los Angeles, Calif.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

"I'm doing fantastic," Bryant added, as he gets comfortable in his director's chair.

In the warehouse next door, the place is pandemonium, people are crazed trying to win the big prize, a DJ is spinning music to get the crowd sitting in the bleachers on their feet and other celebrities are giving interviews.

But next door, Bryant, 37, is cool as a cucumber. He's still got his notorious killer instinct, but it's focused on something other than basketball and he's got one grand plan for this next chapter.

Kobe Bryant has never been here before.

When the conversation turns to the newly organized Kobe Studios and the legend's plan to produce and create films, Kobe lights up.

"Storytelling has always been something I've been interested in since I was a kid," he said. "What we want to do now is figure out a way to connect to the youth and teach them sports lessons: through sports you can really understand a lot about the inner self. That's what we are interested in doing, telling sports stories in a way that raises a certain level of consciousness with the youth."

It has been publicized that Bryant's first film will be a short inspired by the legend's "Dear Basketball" piece written in November to say goodbye to the game with which he has been synonymous for almost a quarter of a century.

Bryant has already acquired the help of another icon, composer John Williams, to work on the project with him. You might know Williams' work from "Star Wars" or "Jaws," or the countless other projects for which he has been nominated or won Oscars.

"There are more stories coming," Bryant added with a smirk. "It's still a work in progress, but I have a great vision of what's to come. Now it's just a matter of building out the individual stories.

“We create the projects internally and we try to find great writers that see the world through zero-gravity lens. When you sit down and speak to a person, there's a certain connection because they understand a certain philosophy."

Bryant is building out his team, finding the right people and right storytellers, which is the hardest part, he says.

Aside from that, his day-to-day has the same intensity he had when he played for the Lakers, just in a different medium.

"I'm constantly learning, a lot of reading, watching films and shows, just listening and sitting around with certain creators," he said.

Collaborating with "creators" is something Kobe undersells, big time. Last month, reports had the player-turned-storyteller meeting with and reaching out to the likes of Steven Spielberg. He elaborated on this growing relationship.

Kobe Bryant is here once again.

When Bryant first came into the league two decades ago, he says, he reached out to past and present greats like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, looking to pick their brains to help him find his footing in basketball. It paid off with five NBA Championships, scoring titles and an MVP Award. He's just doing the same thing in film now.

PHOTO: Directors Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams attend the 16th Annual AFI Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on Jan. 8, 2016 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Directors Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams attend the 16th Annual AFI Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on Jan. 8, 2016 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

"Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, John Williams, Mark Parker, Jony Ive, so many great minds to speak to, to learn from, there's no better way to test stories that you have," he said. "When it's completed, I can give it to them. They'll be the greatest judge, they'll be able to pick it apart and say, 'I think you should do this' or 'Maybe you think about doing this.' I couldn't ask for better mentors."

He added, "When I have access to these people, you just talk to them, ask them for advice, for criticism, direction. I'd be foolish to not take advantage of that."

Wait, Kobe Bryant is getting critiqued on his story pitches?

"It has to be that way. You have to be able to sit here and hold each other accountable and be truthful," he continued. "The idea is to put stories out here that have some kind of impact. You have to be brutally honest about the story.

“We want to put out stories that are great and can move culture. If you are not being honest about the story, you can't do it."

Bryant is tight-lipped about his next film, but the idea is, five years down the road, to have "made a significant impact" through "creative education." He's not gunning for an Oscar, but won't be upset if it happens.

"The goal is to make stories that moves people,” he said. “If we can do that, I think everything else will come.”

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