‘Hair Love’ director wants to win Oscar in honor of Kobe

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              This Jan. 27, 2020 photo shows Matthew A. Cherry during a portrait session at the 92nd Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon in Los Angeles. Cherry is nominated for an Oscar for his animated short "Hair Love." (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Matthew A. Cherry became an Oscar nominee, that was initially good enough for him, until he heard about the death of Kobe Bryant, a former professional athlete — just like himself — who was nominated in the same category in 2018.

For Cherry, Bryant’s death is fueling his desire to win in an Oscar trophy. The director, who is a former NFL player, could accomplish that feat through “Hair Love,” which is nominated for best animated short, a category the NBA legend won for his project “Dear Basketball.” The Los Angeles Lakers superstar died in a helicopter crash Sunday involving eight others including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

“Hair Love” delves into a story about an African American father who learns how to style his daughter’s hair for the first time. He created the 6-minute film to highlight a black family in animation — which he says is a rarity — provide a positive representation for black kids and normalize black hair.

As a football player, Cherry had stints with several teams including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens.

In a recent interview, he spoke with The Associated Press about continuing Bryant’s legacy in film, the importance of short films and dealing with the stereotypes of an athlete transitioning into the industry.