Director Spike Lee, Former NFL Player Matthew Cherry Pay Tribute to Kobe Bryant at Oscars

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Director Spike Lee and former NFL player Matthew A. Cherry paid tribute to Kobe Bryant at Sunday’s Academy Awards, which honored the Lakers legend among other others at the ceremony’s annual “In Memoriam” segment.

Director Spike Lee arrives at the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 9, 2020. (Credit: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)
Director Spike Lee arrives at the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 9, 2020. (Credit: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

Bryant won a 2018 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball,” which was based on a poem announcing his retirement from the NBA in 2016. He died on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas along with eight others, including his daughter Gianna. The group was on their way to a basketball tournament in which Gianna was set to play.

On Sunday evening, pop star Billie Eilish sang the Beatles’ “Yesterday” during a tribute that also recognized other industry members who died over the past year, including Kirk Douglas, John Singleton and Doris Day.

Lee, a basketball fan who’s a familiar fixture at New York Knicks games, also paid homage to Bryant at the ceremony. He wore a gold and purple suit emblazoned with the athlete’s last jersey number, 24.

Karen Rupert Toliver and Matthew A. Cherry accept the award for Best Animated Short Film for “Hair Love” at the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 9, 2020. (Credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Cherry, on the other hand, dedicated his win to Bryant for the Best Animated Short Film, “Hair Love.”

Cherry left the NFL in 2007 following stints with the Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars.

He later produced “Hair Love,” a film about a father struggling to do his daughter’s hair, after launching a 2017 Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. He said he had been inspired by videos of black fathers styling their daughters’ hair.

On Sunday night, he accepted his Oscar with his co-producer, Karen Rupert Toliver. He followed Bryant as the second former professional athlete to win an Oscar.

“May we all have a second act as great as his was,” Cherry said of Bryant on stage.

CNN contributed to this report. 

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