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Kobe Bryant hired camera crew to document final season

BASKETBALL By Reuters | April 25th 2020
FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2015 file photo Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Los Angeles. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. [AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill]

A camera crew followed Kobe Bryant in his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015-16, filming him and teammates in locker rooms on the road and at home, in the training room, at practice and on the team plane, ESPN's Baxter Holmes reported Friday.

The videos have started to be edited for a future documentary, similar to "The Last Dance," which chronicles Michael Jordan's final season with the Chicago Bills. According to the report, Bryant reviewed the edited work in progress and gave his input before his death in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

Holmes said the potential documentary was expected "to be released years from now" and that Bryant's death unlikely changed those plans.

"They had unprecedented and, by far, greater access than anyone else ever," said John Black, the team's former public relations vice president, per ESPN. "We certainly allowed them to do everything we could within what the league would allow, and sometimes, with a wink and look-the-other-way, allowed them even more."

"The Last Dance," a 10-part series that began airing last Sunday night on ESPN, has conjured up remembrances for those close to the team of the film crew that followed the Lakers in the 2015-16 season. Los Angeles compiled a franchise-worst 17-65 record.

"Just watching them and being able to view what the cameras were doing to Jordan's pregame-routine, I mean, it's the same thing," former Lakers' athletic trainer Marco Nunez said. "Just flash forward ... take out No. 23 with the Bulls and insert No. 24 with the Lakers. Yeah, I mean, it's pretty much identical."

NBA Entertainment provided the cameras that accompanied the Bulls everywhere they went in the 1997-98 season. Bryant hired his own crew so that he could maintain control of the video footage.

Bryant averaged 17.6 points in 66 games in his final season and finished his career with a memorable 60-point outing against the Utah Jazz on April 13.

Bryant was one of nine people to die in the helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

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