Kobe Retirement: An Oscar. MJ Retirement: The Lottery.

Kobe Bryant won an Oscar on Sunday Night for Dear Basketball,  an animated retelling of his basketball thank you letter originally published in The Players Tribune.The combination of Bryant and masterful animators turned his words into a romantic fable, complimented by a John Williams score.

Bryant played his last NBA game 23 months ago which makes his Oscar accomplishment even more impressive, particularly when athletes of his caliber struggle to fill out the next chapter in their lives. Bryant has excelled in his first project after pro life, acknowledged for his story and the creative filmmaking behind it. To his trophy case of 5 NBA Titles, 4 All-Star MVP’s, 2 Finals MVP’s, 1 Regular Season MVP, is an Academy Award.

It’s not particularly shocking that a competitive perfectionist like Bryant would succeed at his next chapter. He admits that he does what he is good at. But with that as a template, being good at what you do, curiously, the person Bryant has chased for much of his adult life, Michael Jordan, has struggled for excellence in post retirement life.

Jordan flamed out as the Wizards Director of Basketball Operations. In the draft of 2001, he selected Kwame Brown instead of Pau Gasol or Joe Johnson. Two years later, he was fired. He bought a minority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats and eventually bought the team from Robert Johnson who was eager to divest. Johnson indirectly admitted NBA ownership lacked glamour and was harder than it looked.

Jordan as a NBA owner was groundbreaking territory for a black man.  But Jordan, once again, had some drafting brain freezes.

  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead of Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond.
  • Cody Zeller instead of Giannis Antetokunmpo, Steven Adams, C.J. McCollum.
  • Noah Vonleh instead of Dario Saric, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Zach LaVine, Jusuf Nurkic.
  • Frank Kaminsky instead of Devin Booker, Larry Nance Jr.
  • Malik Monk instead of Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma.

Since Michael Jordan has been a majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets, his team has been in the lottery 6 out of 8 years and the only All-Star has been Kemba Walker. The Hornets are currently in position for the lottery again, five and a half games out of the eighth seed with two teams to climb over and 18 games to do all that climbing in, basically needing a miracle. It’s another dreary season for MJ who just fired his GM Rich Cho.

Is it harder to create a NBA roster than it is to win an Academy Award? Both are similarly tough. Both need elite talent and the willingness to spend money. Both need direction, leadership and a little bit of luck. Both need an identity and creative vision. Both need dreamers and disciplinarians. Both need time to create, design and incubate the design. Whereas Kobe hit a homerun his first at bat, we are still waiting for retirement Michael Jordan to be playoff Michael Jordan. Looking at the roster and the money the Hornets have tied up in bad contracts (Nic Batum, Dwight Howard), it feels like we will be waiting a long while for Jordan excellence. Kobe may have his second Oscar by then.