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Kobe Bryant, Robert Rodriguez talk about Black Mamba Nike ads, six-minute film

January 31, 2011 |  4:00 pm

Kobe Bryant hadn't met Robert Rodriguez before he called him up on the phone last summer. But Bryant isn't known to be shy about much of anything.

Black Mamba poster His product team at Nike got Rodriguez's phone number and the man known as the Black Mamba dialed up the filmmaker.

Bryant wanted to recruit the groundbreaking filmmaker to direct a series of commercials for his new sneaker, the Nike Zoom Kobe VI.

Rodriguez said Sunday, at a press event at the Nike Vault, that he was in on the project from the first call.

Bryant, who scored 41 points in the Lakers loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday, said Rodriguez is a filmmaker unlike any other, someone who could set the ads apart from other shoe commercials.

"I wanted it to kind of jump off the screen," Bryant said on Sunday of his vision for the ad campaign. "And there's nobody better to do it than Robert."

Bryant then called up rapper-producer Kanye West.

"He and I had something in the works a couple years ago with Nike that just never materialized, so the opportunity came up again and he and I always kind of talk back and forth," Bryant said of West.

And Rodriguez too made a couple of phone calls of his own.

One to Danny Trejo, the cult-film actor who has played villains and heroes in many of Rodriguez's movies, and another call into Bruce Willis.

But while Bryant knew West and Trejo were in, Willis was a pleasant surprise when the Lakers guard stepped on Rodriguez's makeshift L.A. set for two days of filming last off season.

EastLA_KobeVI "Bruce was -- that was a surprise to me," Bryant said of Willis. "I had no idea about that until I showed up and then I was like oh ... damn."

Rodriguez made a six-minute film, titled appropriately "The Black Mamba." West plays a villain known as the Boss, with Willis as his henchman. And the Boss wants Bryant's shoes.

In typical over-the-top Rodriguez style, Bryant ends up playing a game of basketball against Danny Trejo and a mutant-like defense, on top of a skyscraper in downtown L.A.

In the film, out of bounds mean falling off the roof. Holywood_KobeVI

The process of shooting the film in two days also fits with Rodriguez's method of making films at a lower-than-normal cost, quickly, using a lot of special effects to create environments that would otherwise take a lot of time and money to build.

Getting Bryant up to speed as a thespian wasn't a problem either, Rodriguez said.

"He can act because he just knows how to get in the zone," he said of Bryant. "You throw him the basketball, you better have the cameras running. You better have the cameras running because then you see him doing what we does best which is truly unbelievable."

Bryant said he saw parallels between acting and what he does on the hardwood.

OrangeCounty_KobeVI "It's always about the details and the passion for what you do and kind of letting things to flow naturally -- a lot of the same things I do on the court," Bryant said. 

 The film will air on TV during the NBA All-Star break, Bryant said, not offering details on what channels just yet.

Also being released around the All-Star Game, which will take place at the Staples Center on Feb. 19, will be a set of Zoom Kobe VI sneakers called the Neighborhood Pack. The pack, made up of three colorways of Bryant's shoe, represents different parts of the L.A. metropolitan area -- East L.A., Hollywood and Orange County.

The East L.A. shoe is drenched in Dodger Blue. The Hollywood Pack features a 3-D reptile print that pops out when viewed with a pair of old-school red-and-blue glasses that come with the kicks. And the OC shoe is orange with a translucent green sole -- printed with a yellow and orange sunset.

Bryant is hoping the ad campaign with Rodriguez will be something people remember and he might be looking to do more with the filmmaker.

"We'll see," he said. "Robert [and] I talked about doing something. But in terms of the spot itself having a sequel it's -- we may, we may not. We'll see."

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles 

Top video: Kobe Bryant talks about the project. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times

Bottom video: Kobe Bryant and Robert Rodriguez talk about the making of "The Black Mamba" film and ad campaign at a press event at the Nike Vault on Sunday. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times

Top image: "The Black Mamba" movie poster. Credit: Nike

Second image: Nike Zoom Kobe East L.A. Credit: Nike

Third image: Nike Zoom Kobe Hollywood. Credit: Nike

Bottom image: Nike Zoom Kobe OC. Credit: Nike