There was a moment late in the 2008 men’s basketball gold medal match in Beijing — a tense matchup between a superstar-filled United States team and reigning world champions Spain — when Dwayne Wade drives with the ball past a defender, stopping short just as his feet hit the paint. Wade then kicks the ball out to Kobe Bryant, open and just beyond the three point line.
“I found him across the court, he jabbed, raised up and hit a three. It was at that moment that we realized it was over,” recalled Wade Thursday night while standing on the red carpet for the Netflix documentary The Redeem Team outside Netflix’s Tudum Theater in Hollywood. He knows the play well because it’s one of his favorites from the game, one that ended with gold medals around the necks of Wade, Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd with a score of 118-107.
It’s also a moment in the new Jon Weinbach-directed Netflix film that details the rise, fall and redemption of the U.S. men’s basketball team on the Olympic stage. It features a host of new interviews with the team and some never-before-seen footage of the late Bryant with wife Vanessa and their daughters, including Gianna Bryant who was killed in a helicopter crash with her father on Jan. 26, 2020.
Wade, an executive producer of the doc, turned up at the premiere along with Weinbach and Redeem Team insiders like Frank Marshall, Mike Tollin, Diego Hurtado De Mendoza, Philip Byron, Greg Groggel, Mark Parkman, Jonathan Vogler and others. In addition to his favorite play, Wade shared what it meant to him to win a gold and lock arms with Bryant during the gold medal ceremony.
“In 2008, it was a very important time for Kobe in his personal life and a very important time for me as I was rebuilding and working to get my name back as well, coming off an injury,” said Wade, who walked the carpet with his wife Gabrielle Union. “To be able to stand there, side by side with one of my favorite players and somebody who became like a brother to me throughout that time, it was special. We could lock arms and just look at each other and be giddy, like kids. Take the Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade out of it, we were just two kids who love playing the game of basketball. To have had the chance to do it on one of the world’s biggest stages, it was amazing.”
For Weinbach, scouring the footage was “emotional.”
“I grew up in L.A. as a Laker fanatic. I’m two years older than Kobe and I have two boys,” he explained. “And as a Laker fan, I gained new appreciation for Kobe during those Olympics because when the chips were down and they really needed a bucket, it was Kobe who turned it on. I wanted that story told.”
Weinbach said they started the process of making the doc prior to Bryant’s passing and in the wake of the tragedy, “it added another level of responsibility.”
Marshall felt the weight, too. “One of the reasons I signed up for this was because we got access to the Olympic archives,” he explained of the deal with the International Olympic Committee that granted access to previously unavailable materials or footage that was “too expensive” to license. “I hadn’t seen any of this footage that they shot during those four years between Athens and Beijing. That’s what I love about docs, the discovery process, as opposed to my day job where I know exactly what I’m doing every moment of the day. To be able to find footage like Kobe’s birthday, that was a great celebration and incredible stuff that we could weave into the story.”
They did so with the blessing of Bryant’s family: “We work with the family on just about everything that we’ve done for this particular doc. We’re very sensitive to everyone that we have in these docs and for me, as long as it’s happened and it’s real, then we know it’s right. But we also want to respect the feelings of Kobe’s family.”
Redeem Team starts streaming on Netflix on Oct. 7.