Did Kobe Bryant Get to See 'The Dark Knight' Before the Rest of the World?

When The Dark Knight debuted in theaters a decade ago, it was bittersweet. The film was met with both box office and critical acclaim, but Heath Ledger had died six months before its release, his performance as the Joker is praised as one of the best parts of the film.

It's that tragic death six months before the film was released that has some scratching their heads, at least in reference to an anecdote about former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.

A recent piece from Yahoo Sports covered a portion of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's video of himself participating in the Los Angeles Lakers' "Genius Series" -- where the team invites speakers to talk to the team as a motivator -- in which Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka recounted an experience with Bryant.

"There was one time when Kobe, who I worked with for 18 years, was going back to play in Madison Square Garden, and he had just seen The Dark Knight," Pelinka said. "Obviously, you guys saw that movie, and he's like, 'Hey, hook me up with dinner with Heath Ledger, because he got so locked into that role. I want to know how he mentally went there.' So, he had dinner with Heath, and he talked about how he locks in for a role. And Kobe used some of that in his game against the Knicks."

Did Kobe Bryant get to see the film before the rest of the world? With a six-month time gap between Ledger's death and the premiere of the movie, some are assuming that what Bryant saw was an early screener. When Ledger died on January 22, 2008, The Dark Knight was in the process of being edited, but that might not add up either. The Lakers game against the Knicks that Pelinka references in his story took place a month earlier on December 23, 2007, but the movie didn't fully complete filming until around mid-November with scenes in Hong Kong.

That would narrow the window of time for Bryant to have seen some full-length version of The Dark Knight down to a mere 42 days which is likely impossible. But Bryant’s conversation with Ledger may not be based off a full screener for The Dark Knight. What Bryant probably saw was the IMAX prologue for the film. Shown with the IMAX release of I Am Legend, the prologue is the entire opening sequence of The Dark Knight in which a gang robs a Gotham City mob bank only for the Joker to double cross them and take the spoils for himself.

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I Am Legend opened in theaters on December 14, 2007, giving Bryant plenty of time to have seen the prologue, but even with only being eight minutes it would have been more than enough to leave an impression. Near the end of the intense scene, one of the robbers takes off his mask to reveal Ledger's now-iconic Joker before he leaves the heist, nonchalantly driving away in school bus before the bank explodes.

The Dark Knight Trilogy, including Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, are all available on home media, including on 4k Ultra HD.