Kobe Bryant on 'Dear Basketball' and the car ride home after his last-ever NBA game

Twenty years. That's how much time Kobe Bryant spent with the Los Angeles Lakers -- his entire career, drafted as a teenager to become a five-time NBA champion and permanent franchise legend.

In 2016, Bryant's storied career came to a end, ending a chapter in Bryant's life as well as one in Los Angeles' history. Joining the NBA was a childhood dream that consumed Bryant all through childhood and adolescence, a vocational calling fueled by an undying love for the game. That undying love is the crux of "Dear Basketball," an animated short film about Bryant's journey from tossing crumpled paper into wastebaskets to dunking on LeBron at LA's Staples Center.

Written and narrated by Bryant, the stirring animation comes from Glen Keane, the man who brought Disney characters like Ariel and Aladdin to life. The score is a creation of John Williams, arguably the most iconic American composer in modern history, and the finished product -- an 2018 Oscar contender -- is a must-watch on Go90. 

Read on for AOL Entertainment's condensed conversation with Kobe Bryant about "Dear Basketball," his incredible career and his family-centric new stage of life:

AOL Entertainment: What was your reaction when you first saw the animated version of yourself come to life on-screen in "Dear Basketball"?

KOBE BRYANT: I was blown away. Seeing the finished piece left me speechless, actually.

In creating the story, was it emotional for you to reflect on your childhood?

Yeah, it was emotional, but it wasn't so much a reflection on my childhood as it was like, how do I express who I am through the game? All the things I feel about the game that I've never had a chance to tell -- what would I say, how would I convey that? What's the most beautiful way I could tell the game how much I feel about it? That was the genesis of writing the letter.

Have your own kids watched the film?

They have, they have. [Bryant has three daughters with wife Vanessa Laine.] They became teary-eyed. They said, "Dad" -- I used to tell them this all the time -- "Dad, hard work makes the dream work." I just looked at them and smiled.

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Kobe Bryant and his family
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Kobe Bryant and his family
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: (L-R) Vanessa Laine Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant and Natalia Diamante Bryant attend Tribeca Talks: Storytellers: Kobe Bryant with Glen Keane during 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant, Gianna Briant, and Natalia Bryant attend Tribeca Talks during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Borough of Manhattan Community College on April 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 14: Kobe Bryant (top) and (L-R) Vanessa Laine Bryant, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, and Natalia Diamante Bryant arrive at Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2016 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 14, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 14: (L-R) Gianna Bryant, Vanessa Bryant, former NBA player Kobe Bryant and Natalia Bryant attend the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2016 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 14, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 14: Vanessa Laine Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant and Natalia Diamante Bryant attend the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 14, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - FEBRUARY 19: LA Laker Kobe Bryant, wife Vanessa Bryant and daughters Natalia Diamante Bryant (L) and Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant (R) attend the Kobe Bryant hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on February 19, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Barry King/FilmMagic)
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant holds his daughter Natalia during practice for the NBA All-Star basketball game in Houston, Texas, February 16, 2013. The All-Star game will be played on February 17. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Basketball player Kobe Bryant and his daughter Natalia Diamante Bryant watch swimming events during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SWIMMING OLYMPICS SPORT BASKETBALL)
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant smiles with daughters Gianna (R) and Natalia with the Bill Russell MVP Trophy after his team defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 to win the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Los Angeles, California June 17, 2010 . REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant carries his daughter Gianna, as his wife Vanessa and daughter Natalia (2nd R) stand next to him during the NBA Championship parade in Los Angeles, California, June 21, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (top R) holds the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy as his wife Vanessa (top L) and daughters Natalia (bottom L) and Gianna watch after the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic to win the NBA Championship in Game 5 in Orlando, Florida June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Kolczynski (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)
Vanessa Bryant (C), wife of Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant, watches the Lakers NBA game against the Seattle Supersonics with their two daughters Gianna Maria-Onore (R) and Natalia (L) in Los Angeles November 3, 2006. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant poses with his wife Vanessa and their daughter Natalia at the premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" at Disneyland in Anaheim, California May 19, 2007. The movie opens in the U.S. on May 25. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES)
Basketball super star Kobe Bryant watches with his two daughters, Natalia (R) and Gianna (L) as Los Angeles Galaxy plays the San Jose Earthquakes in a Major League Soccer game in Carson, California April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)
Basketball super star Kobe Bryant reacts along with his wife Vanessa (L) and their two daughters Natalia (R) and Gianna as they watch the Los Angeles Galaxy plays against the San Jose Earthquakes in a Major League Soccer game in Carson, California April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)
Vanessa Bryant (R), wife of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, hugs their daughter Natalia during the NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs, in Los Angeles November 28, 2003. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson LN/HB
Vanessa Bryant (L), wife of unrestricted free agent Kobe Bryant, and their daughter Natalia, listen to Kobe speak at a press conference to announce he will remain with the Los Angeles Lakers in a seven-year deal for the NBA's league maximum of $136 million in El Segundo, California, July 15, 2004. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson LN
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers arrives with his wife Vanessa and daughter Natalia to a news conference at the team's training facility in El Segundo, California July 15, 2004. Bryant signed a seven-year contract worth more than $136 million to remain with the Lakers. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith RG
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 19: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers poses with wife Vanessa and daughters Giana (L) and Natalia during a ceremony honoring Bryant for moving into third place on the all time NBA scoring list and passing Michael Jordan, before the game withthe Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on December 19, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Did you watch it with them?

I put it on for my kids and for my wife and let them watch it and kind of walked away.

Can you pinpoint one moment in your career where you just thought to yourself, 'Wow, I can't believe this is my life'?

In the car after my last game. [Bryant scored 60 points in the final game of his career, landing the Lakers a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz.] I was in the car with my wife and daughters, and they were just giving me crap, saying, "It's about time you had a game like that!" My one daughter said, "I've never seen you play like that before -- I've heard about it, but I've never seen it." Just giving me crap, and I was just laughing and smiling, thinking, This is awesome. This is what it's all about, right here.

It must be great to be able to spend so much more time with your family now.

Yeah, you know, the [pro basketball] schedule is so inconsistent. You're here for a week, you're gone for two, you're back for two days -- it's hard as a parent because you want to give your children as much consistency as possible. So now I'm able to do that: Take them to school, pick them up, after school practices, dinner. It's been wonderful to be able to hang with them.

11 PHOTOS
Kobe Bryant's last game
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Kobe Bryant's last game
Apr 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) waves to the crowd as he walks on the court before a game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Bryant concludes his 20-year NBA career tonight. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) tries to drive against Utah Jazz guard Shelvin Mack (8) in the first quarter at Staples Center. Bryant concludes his 20-year NBA career tonight. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers acknowledges the crowd before taking on the Utah Jazz in Bryant's final NBA game at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reaches for the ball in the first half while taking on the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles and claps before taking on the Utah Jazz in Bryant's final NBA game at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers hugs head coach Byron Scott before taking on the Utah Jazz in Bryant's final NBA game at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd before taking on the Utah Jazz in Bryant's final NBA game at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks to journalists, Mike Tirico and Lisa Salters before the game against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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What's it like to see new, talented players just entering the NBA?

Oh, it's funny because I know the mountain they have to climb. It's a very, very steep one, and it's a very, very long one. And I'm excited for them, because I know they have the energy to climb it. I look back myself and think, How the hell did I climb that mountain in the first place? I could not imagine starting from the beginning right now -- because where my body is, my knees, my back, I just can't imagine doing it. But I'm really excited to see this next generation of talent starting their own journeys.

Are there any particular players you've spoken to?

I speak to a lot of them, actually. A lot of them reach out for advice or suggestions about how to handle particular defenses and training. I've been around for so long, they figure -- I've been around the block a few times. I'm more than happy to talk to them.

A weird thing about retiring from pro sports is that you're certainly not old when your career wraps up. What are you excited about doing during this next stage of your life?

I'm really excited about what we're creating. "Dear Basketball" was our first project, and we've been working quietly on building other things to follow. I'm really excited about sharing those things with the rest of the world.

12 PHOTOS
Kobe Bryant's career
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Kobe Bryant's career
CLEVELAND - FEBRUARY 8: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers soars for a dunk during the 1997 Nestle Crunch Slam Dunk Contest on February 8, 1997 at the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1997 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, UNITED STATES: Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant(L) and Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan(R) talk during a free-throw attempt during the fourth quarter 17 December at the United Center in Chicago. Bryant, who is 19 and bypassed college basketball to play in the NBA, scored a team-high 33 points off the bench, and Jordan scored a team-high 36 points. The Bulls defeated the Lakers 104-83. AFP PHOTO VINCENT LAFORET (Photo credit should read VINCENT LAFORET/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - FEBRUARY 8: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks during the 1998 NBA All-Star Game played on February 8, 1998 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1998 NBAE (Photo by Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)
03/02/98 - MCI Center - Lakers' Kobie Bryant(L) listens to teammate Shaquille O'Neal as they sit on the bench during game against the Wizards. - Photo By Rich Lipski TWP (Photo by Rich Lipski/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
USA - 1999: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a layup during a 1999 NBA game. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1999 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JUNE 19: Shaquille O'Neal #34 and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers pose with Lakers legend Magic Johnson after winning the NBA Championship trophy after defeating the Indiana Pacers in Game Six of the 2000 NBA Finals on June 19, 2000 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2000 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
28 Dec 2001: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers chilling out before their game against the Toronto Raptors at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. DIGITAL IMAGE. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Licence Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 2001 NBAE. Mandatory Credit: Catherine Steenkeste/ NBAE/ Getty Images
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates victory following Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena on June 14, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. The Lakers won the National Basketball Association championships defeating Orlando 99-86 for their 15th title and first since 2002. Bryant had 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Lakers completed a four-games-to-one victory in the best-of-seven NBA Finals. AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 27: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for the shot over Ben Wallace #3 of the Detroit Pistons during the game at Staples Center on February 27, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Pistons 95-85. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: 2003 NBAE. (Photo by: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO - MAY 7: Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers answers questions from the press after Game two of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at SBC Center on May 7, 2003 in San Antonio, Texas. The Spurs won 114-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Copyright 2003 NBAE (Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant answers questions during a press conference held at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo, Calif.. Thursday, July 15, 2004. Bryant chose the Lakers over the Clippers, remaining with the team he joined in 1996 at age 18 and later helped win three NBA championships. (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)
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