Netflix's The Redeem Team: How The Documentary Does Kobe Bryant Justice

Kobe Bryant in The Redeem Team
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix’s newest sports documentary, The Redeem Team, sheds light on one of the most interesting basketball teams ever assembled – the 2008 U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball team. The group was meant to… well, redeem the country’s international basketball program after the 2004 team only managed to win the bronze in Athens. This new doc, which was crafted by the producers behind Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance, does an effective job of tackling the various personalities that made up the squad. However, I really have to give props to the filmmakers for doing Kobe Bryant justice. 

It goes without saying that many basketball fans have plenty of memories tied to Kobe Bryant. With that, so many of us were shocked and saddened when Bryant died at the age of 41 in 2020 (alongside his daughter, Gianna, and seven others). With this, subsequently released sports docs involving the late Los Angeles Laker have sought to handle his legacy with care. (Even The Last Dance featured a Bryant-centric segment). The Redeem Team, in particular, deserves quite a bit of credit for the way in which it upholds Bryant’s memory, and it manages to accomplish that challenging feat in a few key ways:

Kobe Bryant in The Redeem Team

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Redeem Team Effectively Displays Kobe Bryant’s Prowess As A Basketball Player

It’s safe to say that everyone knows just how effective the five-time NBA champion was on the basketball court. Today, plenty of people sing his praises, including former teammate Shaquille O’Neal (who admitted he used to push his buttons in order to motivate him). Using footage and sharp quotes from his teammates, this newly released doc does an excellent job of showcasing the late star’s talents. There are a few moments in particular that really stand out. 

The segment of the doc that’s devoted to Team USA’s game with Argentina (who beat them in the semifinals in Athens). Coach Mike Krzyzewski lit a fire under Kobe Bryant by leaving a newspaper clipping in his seat. Said article asserted that Argentine player Manu Ginobli was the best shooting guard in the world. Needless to say, Bryant took the bait and ultimately dominated on the floor. Bryant’s skills were legendary, and the film certainly doesn’t shy away from making that point clear. 

Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant in The Redeem Team

(Image credit: Netflix)

Kobe Bryant’s Ability To Set The Tone As A Teammate Is On Full Display

During the course of his career, Kobe Bryant earned a bit of a reputation for being a one-man show. It’s true that he did like to have the ball in hands as seen in Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers (which can be streamed with a Hulu subscription). Many have also made note of how that led to dysfunction with Shaq. However, he was a good teammate in many respects, especially when it came to the Olympic team. That idea is proven on multiple occasions during The Redeem Team

At one point, audiences learn that the Laker legend would get up at 5 a.m. to put in work at the gym. His teammates, humorously enough, didn’t become aware of that ritual until they crossed paths with him after a night of partying. While Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and co. were first taken aback by it, they eventually followed suit, and I’d say those early-morning team workouts definitely helped the team in the long run. And another example of tone-setting came when the star rammed LA teammate Pau Gasol, who was playing for Spain, during a preliminary match. KB8 sought to instill a sense of toughness in his cohorts, who couldn’t believe what he’d done, and the bold move certainly stuck with them throughout the rest of the summer games.

screenshot kobe bryant's muse doc

(Image credit: Showtime)

The Redeem Team Picked Impeccable Archive Interviews Of Kobe Bryant

Crafting a documentary of any kind can be challenging, but that’s especially true when a key interview subject is no longer with us. The producers of The Redeem Team were faced with that very hurdle when it came to Kobe Bryant. Yet they succeeded in digging up some smart interviews that manage to provide insight into Bryant’s experience at the 2008 games in Beijing. The special draws from a few sources, but the most prominent one is the film Kobe Bryant’s Muse, which can be streamed with a Paramount+ subscription.

You may be wondering why such things are important but, when dealing with a deceased interview subject, a documentarian wants to be sure that they’re not merely crafting a narrative around said person. In the end, they want the person to be able to speak for themself. Though it’s hard to match the effectiveness of actually having him around, the filmmakers succeed in giving the hall of famer a firm presence in the film – one that’s both entertaining and tasteful. 

Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant in The Redeem Team

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Sports Documentary Shows Some Wonderful Lighthearted Moments Involving Kobe Bryant

In many cases, the public only saw Kobe Bryant as a skilled basketball assassin on the court. But if you’ve seen interviews with him, you’ll know that he also had a tender side. The Redeem Team doesn’t shy away from showing that as well. It’s refreshing to see him laugh with teammates during practices and cheer on other U.S. Olympic athletes at their respective events. One of the most heartwarming moments from the film saw the team celebrating Bryant’s 30th birthday, with LeBron James even leading the room in a round of “Happy Birthday.” Honestly, I don’t know what was sweeter: the song itself or the smile across Bryant’s face after it was done.

On top of that, the movie also features some nice archive footage of the athlete with his wife, Vanessa Bryant, who’s preserved his memory (and their daughter’s) over the past few years. The purpose of any good documentary is to humanize its subjects, and this one does a wonderful job with Kobe Bryant. Not only does it give one a great sense of Kobe the player, it also effectively sheds light on Kobe the man.

I’ll admit that it’s still somewhat difficult to watch footage of the NBA great at this point. But if docs put as much effort into honoring him as this one did, then I look forward to seeing more productions about his illustrious career and life.

The Redeem Team, one of this year’s most significant new movie releases, can be streamed with a Netflix subscription.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.