Kobe Bryant is hailed by many as the greatest player in the game, but he's not above busting out his best Thriller moves with his daughter after a hard-fought game. The only man who could capture such magic off and on the court? Acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee.
Lee's documentary Kobe Doin' Work follows the L.A. Lakers superstar before, during and after an April 13, 2008, playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs. With 30 cameras trained only on Bryant—and unprecedented locker room access granted by coach Phil Jackson—Lee's film is an intimate look at Bryant and the game of basketball as a whole.
Lee says his inspiration for this project came from a documentary about soccer great Zinedine Zidane. "How they did it was they kept one camera on Zidane," Lee says. "I said: 'This is great. We should try this with basketball.' So I went to Kobe."
The hurdles were great. Lee needed top-down approval from the NBA and a nationally televised game so he could use footage from the extra cameras. "We had to hustle," he says.
Once a date was set, Lee and his team executed their plan with near-military precision. "We wanted to be in the huddle in time-out. Certain plays, like dunks, we wanted to be right up at the basket. We wanted to have a lot of shots on the arms, the legs of Kobe—not necessarily whole head-to-toe shots," he says. " Every operator knew where they would be for the game, and then I told them what we'd be expecting from each operator. A lot of that stuff you can't just grab on the run. It has to be set up."
During play, Bryant's commentary takes us through every shot, strategy and emotion of the game. "Going in, I knew that the man's an Einstein as far as his basketball IQ," Lee says. "That is one of the reasons why we wanted him to do a commentary for it, so he can impart his vast knowledge of basketball to average fans."
Whether you're a casual fan or a basketball devotee, Lee says this is a film for everyone. "Kobe's one of the greatest players who ever played, and basketball's a great sport," he says. "It's operatic, ballet, jumping, shouting, strategy. People should give it a try."