Kobe Doin’ Work: A Spike Lee Joint (2009)
Kobe: Doin’ Work (USA) (ESPN) Directed by Spike Lee.
This particular review comes with a major caveat: you don’t have to be a fan of Kobe Bryant or the LA Lakers to enjoy this film (The Cinema Guy is most definitely not), but if you’re not a hardcore NBA fan, you might not want to bother. This is not a traditional documentary, and that is both the bad news if you are not basketball obsessed, and the good news if you are. What separates this from most sports docs (it’s similar to the one on French soccer star Zinedine Zidane) is an almost complete lack of fluff. There’s no back story, stats, footage of Bryant outside the arena, talk of his place in history, additional interviews, clips, or discussion about his relationship with Shaq or the rape trial. However, if you’re a student of basketball you will definitely appreciate this Spike Lee production. It’s austere approach gives us crystalline visuals (30 cameras) and sound of Bryant throughout the course of one game against the San Antonio Spurs (and specifically, the defensive minded Bruce Bowen). Accompanying the in-game and images and sound is the taped commentary Bryant did months later. We hear him talk about his pre and in-game thought process, his role in, and the overall philosophy of, the triangle offense, and the responsibility he feels as a leader. He instructs his teammates, talks during timeouts, works the refs, and generally does what NBA superstars do - tries every method possible to influence the outcome of the game. Listening to him, there’s a lot of fascinating insider information to be gleaned about what goes into a superior athlete’s psyche. It becomes obvious as one goes along how well Bryant knows the Lakers system, and how comfortable he is with Phil Jackson. One realizes that, taking Bryant’s incredible athletic ability as a given, his game approach at this point in his career is really like plotting strategic moves in a giant chess match. If they do this, I do that, if they take away this, we counter with that. His analysis breaks the game down in a really cogent and interesting way. Hard to know if he was playing to the cameras or not (it’d be hard for anyone not to), but it’s still as close as anyone has gotten to getting inside the head of an athlete while competing. Though not yet available on DVD, this an currently be seen on ESPN and ESPN 2.