Kobe Bryant ended his Hall of Fame NBA career in legendary fashion with 60 points on an astounding 50 shots last Wednesday in front of a star-studded hometown crowd. It was just the 17th victory of the season for the Los Angeles Lakers, but that didn’t stop Hollywood and the sports world from coming together to burnish a basketball icon.
As is always the way in these Internet days, all of this hegemonic hagiography was accompanied by counter-takes at the margins. Examinations of Kobe’s high-volume shooting style or critiques of the way he drove away teammates like Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard were there for those who wanted to find them.
The piece that grabbed a hold of me however—and I just can’t get it out of my head—was “The Legacy of the Kobe Bryant Rape Case,” by Lindsay Gibbs. It looked at the rape charges levied against Bryant in Eagle County, Colorado, back in 2003, and the ramifications of his lawyers’ scorched-earth approach toward rape survivors. This criminal case never went to trial, of course, after Bryant’s alleged victim refused to cooperate, and any civil case that could have arisen was settled out of court. It’s a common story when the wealthy and powerful are accused of sexual assault.
But then there was Kobe Bryant’s apology. I had not read his statement in 13 years, and it’s a stunning artifact. After years of reporting on Steubenville, the Notre Dame/Lizzy Seeberg case, Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Kane, and so many more of these all-too-frequent stories where sports meets sexual assault, it left me wide-eyed, with more questions than answers.
Before reading, please keep in mind that the apology was made after the case was dismissed, and there is no evidence that Bryant was compelled to make this as part of the civil settlement of the case.
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.