Despite winning an Academy Award, former NBA star and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant isn’t getting a spot in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Though a membership committee in the Academy’s Short Films and Feature Animation Branch voted to invite him into the ranks, the Academy’s governors committee, which has final say-so on membership, overruled them, Variety reported on Wednesday.
The Academy’s denial of Bryant’s membership was first reported by Cartoon Brew.
The final decision on who will be invited to join the Academy this year will be made on Saturday by the entire Board of Governors, which will review lists from each branch during its regularly scheduled meeting.
Bryant shared the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball,” which he wrote and narrated, with director Glen Keane. Oscar-winning filmmakers are typically nominated and considered for entry into the Academy, and that’s what happened here.
However, according to Variety, the Academy’s governors committee ultimately felt that Bryant needs evidence of a larger career in film before admitted as a member.
Per the short film and feature animation branch’s membership regulations, an individual can be considered for invitation to the Academy one of three ways: Having at least two theatrical film screen credits in a key creative role that meet the Academy’s standards; earning a nomination in the live action, animated short films categories or the animated feature film category; or, in the opinion of the membership committee, achieving “unique distinction,” earning “special merit” or making “an outstanding contribution within the person’s field of endeavor.”
While Bryant did not qualify under the first of the criteria, since “Dear Basketball” was his first film, he could have been invited as an Oscar nominee.
The Academy has been trying in recent years to increase the number of non-white members in its ranks. That makes it more unusual that Bryant would not be invited in the wake of his Oscar win, and likelier that the Academy was taking into account the criticism it would receive because of the sexual assault allegations that Bryant had faced in 2003.
Steve Pond contributed to this reporting.