Photo: ©AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) – Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton isn’t ready to believe that Kobe Bryant’s Oscar means more to the Lakers legend than his five NBA titles.

“He said that? With a straight face?” ‬Walton said Monday when quizzed by reporters about Bryant’s comments. “I didn’t see it but I would imagine there was some sarcasm in there. But hey, I don’t know. That’s his call.”

Bryant, 39, won the Academy Award for best animated short Sunday for “Dear Basketball,” a collaboration with artist Glen Keane and legendary composer John Williams.

“It feels better than winning a championship, to be honest,” Bryant told reporters backstage after collecting his statuette. 

“As a kid, I grew up dreaming of winning a championship, but to have something like this coming out of left field… people asked, ‘What do you want to do when you retire?’ and I said, ‘writer.’

“And they were like, ‘That’s cute,'” Bryant said. “But to be here right now, to have a sense of validation — it’s crazy, man.”

Bryant was already a Los Angeles icon, but in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, his honor created some consternation from those who remembered his arrest over the suspected rape of a 19-year-old hotel worker in Colorado in 2003.

Bryant admitted to a sexual encounter, but insisted it was consensual. The criminal case was dropped when the accuser refused to testify, but Bryant faced a civil suit that was settled out of court with no admission of guilt from the NBA star.

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