At The Root

We all have our faves; we all have those we idolize. However, our faves are actual human beings. Complex and complicated and nowhere near perfect.

If you would have told me we would be mourning Kobe Bryant in 2020, I would have called you a liar. Kobe Bryant was only 41 years old and his story didn’t seem at the end. Kobe Bryant became bigger than basketball. He became an Oscar winner, philanthropist and avid support of the WNBA. He had the buy-in of seeing his own daughter one day playing in that league so his presence and support would have pushed the powers that be to give those women the salaries they deserve. The league lost out on the powerhouse that Gianna Bryant was already shaping to become. Worldwide, people mourn his greatness and his memory. It’s hard to see your heroes leave you too soon.

There are five (5) stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  The grief process of Vanessa Bryant is wholeheartedly different than anyone else’s. She deserves peace and space to heal. I’m sure posting the memories of her family is helping her in her process but she has an uphill battle. Many people say, they grieve those they have lost their entire lives.

Everyone has the right to grieve Kobe in their own way. Whether he is has been YOUR basketball great or your older brother or father’s basketball great, this loss will sting and continues to sting.  So, it is no surprise that, just like the Wicked Witch of the West Evelyn, nobody better bring no bad news about Kobe. Spoiler alert: the 2003 Colorado incident is the bad news nobody wants to hear.

In July 2003, there were allegations made that Kobe Bryant sexually assaulted a 19 year old woman. It a huge scandal because 1. he is Kobe Bryant and 2. it seemed weird because it was Colorado. Pre-trial hearings started in December 2003 and on September 2004 the case was dismissed because of the alleged refusing to continue to cooperate. Kobe then put out the following statement:

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. No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. 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.

I issue this statement today fully aware that while one part of this case ends today, another remains. I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the state of Colorado

A statement that he made right after the charges were dropped. Right. After.

It’s a statement that is not only commendable but also demonstrates how Kobe was wise beyond his years. That was 17 years ago. In the years since, Kobe has since retired from basketball, wrote several books (Mamba Mentality and 3 children’s books), separated and reconciled with his wife, had 4 beautiful daughters (his oldest was born in 2003) and won an Oscar

In 2018, after he won the Oscar there were a number of tweets and think pieces detailing how “cringeworthy” it was for Kobe Bryant to win at the “Times Up” Oscars. If you google it, it’s there. The strides he had made, the work he has done, the growth and maturity in his personal life went straight out the window. He, however, didn’t focus on any of that and kept it moving. Which, is what you do when you are an adult and realize that actions have consequences. This is by no means an admonishment of him or statement of his guilt; it’s just the situation. No matter how messed up we view the situation, it’s still the situation. It’s a part of his life and, unfortunately, his legacy.

Gayle King, an investigative journalist who always asks the hard questions, sat down with Lisa Leslie on Tuesday, February 4th. They waxed philosophical about Kobe’s playing days and what Gianna’s (or Mambacita) role would have been in the WNBA. How Kobe’s influence would have impacted the league. An influence, we no longer have. During the roughly 5 1/2 minute interview that aired, Gayle, as she does, asked a hard question. A question that is too soon for many. A question that nobody wants to hear the answer to. A question that many felt should not have been asked by a Black Woman and should not have been answered by a Black Woman. This was Gayle’s initial question and Leslie Leslie’s answer:

It’s been said that his legacy is complicated because of a sexual assault charge, which was dismissed in 2003, 2004. Is it complicated for you as a woman, as a WNBA player?

It’s not complicated for me at all. Even if there’s a few times that we’ve been at a club at the same time, Kobe’s not the kind of guy—never been, like, you know, ‘Lis, go get that girl, or tell her or send her this.’ I have other NBA friends that are like that. Kobe was never like that. I just never, have ever seen him being the kind of person that would do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way. That’s just not the person that I know.

 But Lisa, you wouldn’t see it, though. As his friend, you wouldn’t see it.

And that’s possible. I just don’t believe that. And I’m not saying things didn’t happen. I just don’t believe that things didn’t happen with force.

Now THIS part of the conversation got many a folks in a frenzy. Many folks felt slighted. Many folks felt hurt. Many folks… became angry. When you love someone and they pass away, you want to hear NOTHING negative about them. NOTHING. Not parking tickets, not overdue library books, not debts they still owe. NOTHING. Sometimes in grief, your thoughts are illogical and irrational. Because you hurting. So, the backlash to this part of the interview was somewhat expected but not on the level that was received. The reaction to the offense was greater that the actual offense: asking a good friend of our beloved Kobe any question about the seemingly single dark mark on his legacy. This exchanged followed the initial question:

Is it even a fair question to talk about it considering he’s no longer with us and that it was resolved? Or is it really part of his history?

I think that the media should be more respectful at this time. It’s like if you had questions about it, you had many years to ask him that. I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy. I mean, it went to trial.

Yeah, well, the case was dismissed because the victim in the case refused to testify. So, it was dismissed.

And I think that that’s how we should leave it.

Both of these women spoke truths. To Lisa’s point: that IS where we should leave it. To Gayle’s: as a friend you wouldn’t see it. How many women have ever been friends with someone who has committed or been accused of sexual assault and were shocked because they “didn’t think he was that kind of person”? Many. So, even though her line of questioning seemed callous (albeit on brand) for Gayle King, she actually did make a point. For Lisa, she had a point too: we shouldn’t keep hanging this over his legacy.

The incident in 2003 shaped Kobe to be the person he was. He learned, grew and matured. He did…what we ask so many to do. However, the backlash from so many who were #girldads last week or those who were complaining how black men treated them only to circle around and do the EXACT thing to Gayle that they claimed Black men did to her is a circle of ashy that I can’t take. It’s maddening. However, it’s the manifestation of how grief can make you react illogically. Because the “what about’s” and “but are we talking about” platitudes are hilariously hypocritical and disingenuous.

There are people saying “think about Vanessa Bryant and her kids” when last week it was like “eh she will be ok, she is rich. And why we going up for her? She is non-black”. There are people spouting the “don’t speak ill of the dead” platitudes when just a few short months ago they were bringing up every dirty deed of John McCain and Barbara Bush and  George Bush, Sr. a couple of years ago. This “empathy” is very, very selective. When that, at it’s core, is not how empathy actually works.

There were people literally high-fiving Snoop for calling Gayle a bitch (more than once; he said it in a video and wrote it on her IG post) and seemingly threatening her. He has since walked it back… but he didn’t necessarily apologize for being extremely disrespectful.

This is the other part when you are grieving; you rationalize your actions because of your pain. I saw and continue to see many people rationalizing Snoop (and many other famous men) outburst and disrespect of Gayle King. “Man he hurt”. That isn’t an excuse. If we are saying that it is not “okay” for Gayle to ask that question; it cannot be “okay” for Snoop to disrespect her. PERIOD.

There have a few think pieces written about the situation that gave nuance to a situation that imploded because of the lack of nuance. These pieces were met with disdain and claimed that the authors were “pandering”. Pandering to whom, I’m not entirely sure.

To watch so many folks go “Snoop was out of line, but…” and then give a reason to justify the offense is telling. Especially when people try to tell those who try to give benefit of the doubt to Gayle are not receptive to it. People actually said she is *checks notes* getting what she deserved. Fun fact: no she is not.

Can I concede that the questions were asked in poor taste? Absolutely. Can I also recognize that these are legitimate questions? Absolutely. Both things can be occurring at the exact same time.

We all have dark marks in our past. Some are small, some are huge. Kobe has a glaring one in his past. One that he worked past and became a better person because of. When our heroes pass, we don’t want to focus on the fact that they were, in fact, human. That they are not perfect and they have lapses of judgement. We just don’t.

I have wrestling with my thoughts and my understanding on the situation that transpired with the Gayle King backlash. I have come to this conclusion: Many folks don’t want to discuss the 2003 incident because they think that Kobe is innocent. That really is at the root of this. Because, quite frankly, when Bill Cosby or R. Kelly dies these same folks won’t be calling for a cease fire on people bringing up their past deeds. They will feel it’s fair game. Because… they think those two men are actually guilty.

We all have our faves; we all have those we idolize. However, our faves are actual human beings. Complex and complicated and nowhere near perfect. Kobe has a mighty legacy. He has inspired a generation. That does not mean this incident in 2003 didn’t shape the human being we are mourning and will be celebrating. It just means that Kobe was human. To try to bury the blemish in his legacy isn’t helping; it’s just showing the bias we all have for our faves.




1 comment

  1. Completely agree with this. Black community doesn’t like the bad parts of our “black excellences” at all. Kobe can have this bad story and be a legend. BOTH can be true and acknowledged. Just as you can have a no good parent & that parent is the best football coach for a team.
    Sexual assault isn’t the same backstory as being in a gang- You could get away with murder and remain highly respected if your charismatic enough. This makes our community unsafe for victims and witnesses.

    there’s an issue of when has time been served and how to document those mistakes. From what we know, Kobe hasn’t dealt with a similar issue ever again. It shouldn’t be dug back up if there was change- it can be noted however.

    McCain fought for this country and didn’t believe in Trump’s craziness but did spend his career voting against policies that could have helped many people. His honor as a POW doesn’t erase what he did to Americans over that time. Should people forgive that since there was no change? Ghandi did a lot but he was really messed up. Yet he’ll continue to be featured in children’s books. How do we explain the whole person?

    Is there a way to put asterisks on famous people’s lives in museums and books? Maybe It would help people idolize people less. I just know this will be reoccurring thing for celebs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: