Wondering about Kobe Bryant

Mamba and Mambacita Foundation

Kobe BryantGreg, one of the first bloggers I met online, nearly 15 years ago, and the father of two daughters (relevant here, I think) wondered:

I don’t know if I’ve asked you, but how do you reconcile Kobe Bryant’s rather skeevy sex life – and possible raping – with admiring his work with his daughters and girls’ sports in general? So many people seemed to give him a pass on the former when he died while lauding the latter, and I just can’t.

It really annoys me that he quite probably got away with rape because he’s rich, and it simply vanished from his biography except for some minor mentions. His wonderful work with girls’ sports always seemed like an attempt to buy redemption to me. It’s great and I’m glad he did it, but it seemed to work, too.

A reasonable question. First of all, I had to look at the Los Angeles Times article about the case. The piece came out shortly after he died, about a year ago.

“Yet one major off-the-court hit to Bryant’s reputation took place June 30, 2003, in a hotel room at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in the Rocky Mountains town of Edwards, Colo. A 19-year-old woman working as the front-desk clerk accompanied Bryant on a tour of the property. She later went to Bryant’s hotel room, where she said he raped her.

Kobe Bryant, 24 at the time, was charged with one count of felony assault. It took 14 months for the criminal case to be resolved. The accuser decided she would not testify, and prosecutors dropped the case Sept. 1, 2004. A civil suit brought by the accuser in August 2004 was settled out of court on March 2, 2005, marking the end of an often-graphic legal saga that drew worldwide attention but never resulted in a trial.”

There’s a whole bunch of details about the accuser’s loss of resolve, and mistakes by the court system, including her name being released to the media.

“Bryant never spoke publicly about the case after the July 2003 news conference, although he did issue the following statement on the day the criminal case was dismissed.”


“’First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure.

“’I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado. I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman…

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

So I felt that Kobe Bryant took at least some responsibility for his actions. More to your point, I think that the court case, and especially being the father of four daughters, changed him. One sees the inequality and difference of opportunity for girls compared with boys, though it is shrinking.

I’m not sure he wanted to “buy” redemption. In addition to his family foundation, he worked with Make-A-Wish Foundation, and also supported after-school programs, cancer research, efforts to help the homeless, and more . His participation was usually hands-on, not just writing a check.

Just Mercy

I’m also taken by something that lawyer Byran Stevenson wrote in his book  Just Mercy. He notes that “he often had conversations with clients who were struggling and despairing over their situations and the things they had done, or were done to them. These clients would question the value of their lives, and he would remind them that <em>they were more than the worst thing they had ever done.</em>  You can also hire a drug crime lawyers in Festus to fight your case.

“‘If you tell a lie, that does not mean you are just a liar. If you take something that is not yours, that does not mean you are just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you are not just a killer.

“‘Understanding this is helpful not just for those who may be questioning the value of their lives, it is also helpful for all of us. We have all judged someone as a result of something that person has done, but we should not define someone just based on that act.’

“Stevenson notes that we are all broken in one way or another, and understanding our brokenness creates not only a need and desire for mercy but also a corresponding need to show mercy.

“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving; it’s when mercy is least expected that it is most potent.” Check out the movie.

I think we all deserve a shot at redemption.

Kobe Bryant: when the famous die

TMZ is vile

Kobe Bryant helicopter crash victims
per CNN

After retired basketball star Kobe Bryant died, I felt a bit like a cultural anthropologist. Beyond the tragic loss of life, I was interested in how others reacted to his passing.

I wrote about Kobe Bryant less often than I did the Kobe, Japan earthquake. Once was a passing reference to him which was mostly about his coach Phil Jackson. For whatever reason, I lost interest in NBA basketball this century. And I was pretty enthusiastic back in the days of Magic Johnson’s Lakers versus Larry Bird’s Celtics.

One thing about me is that I tend to absorb overwhelming grief. It was not so much my own but my sense of the collective shock of his many fans and colleagues. Even if it wasn’t my specific pain, I can remember how I felt when John Lennon and Rod Serling passed.

For instance, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “I’m screaming right now, cursing into the sky, crying into my keyboard, and I don’t care who knows it.” It was hardly the only anguish I saw.

Many pieces noted that Life Is Not Promised. In fact, Kobe himself said the same thing in Newsweek shortly after 9/11/2001. “We Never Know When Our Time Here Will Be Over.”

Sports Illustrated started their story with variation on that angle. “Thirteen-year-old Gianna Bryant and her father are gone, and that is not quite how the Bryants’ story will be told, but it’s how we should think about it first.”

The news cycle

Naturally, there were discussions about how only Kobe and, eventually, then his daughter, were mentioned when there were seven others on board, including two other basketball-playing teens. Part of it is that it was only known initially that Kobe and “some others” were riding.

In fact, there was a depressing reason. Reportedly, Kobe’s wife Vanessa “learned about the death of her husband and daughter at the same time as the rest of the world. Before police notified her of her family’s tragic loss, the news was leaked by TMZ – a tabloid news channel.”

The story was noteworthy at a certain level because nine people were killed. Its prominence days later is tied to fame. TV writer Ken Levine (MASH, Cheers) noted what would have happened if he had died with a famous baseball player. “if we had crashed there would have been news bulletins breaking into every network, huge front page headlines the next day and they all would say, ‘Baseball star, Tony Gwynn and a passenger were killed in a auto accident.'”

For his part, Gywnn, who died of cancer in 2014, “felt it was wrong that one person should be valued over another just because they’re famous.” But as Levine opined, “You can’t change the way the world operates.”

Early on, some people complained that “no one” was talking about the 2003 rape accusation against Kobe and subsequent settlement. Yes, it wasn’t the lead immediately after the horrific accident. But by day two of the story, I heard it mentioned regularly, in passing to be sure.


Dear BasketballFor my part, I was totally unaware of his Mamba Sports Academy, founded in 2018. The page quotes Kobe Bryant in noting, “Mamba Mentality isn’t about seeking a result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life.”

I did see his Oscar-winning short film Dear Basketball, about achieving his dream and then needing to walk away.

No less authority than Magic Johnson considered Kobe Bryant the greatest Laker ever. I’d say he was up there with George Mikan, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic himself. If my sense of personal loss isn’t as great as others, I still recognize the magnitude of his passing.

Because the helicopter was not equipped with a terrain warning system that could have alerted pilot to the hillside where he crashed, expect that the technology will be mandated more often.


So rest in peace, basketball coach Christina Mauser, who leaves behind a husband and three children; Alyssa Altobelli and her parents, John and Keri; Payton Chester and her mom, Sarah; and pilot Ara Zobayan.

And rest in peace, Gianna Bryant and her dad, Kobe. He was a “girl dad”, and that IS something I can relate to.

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