Nike may have said it best when it comes to Kobe Bryant. At the end of his 20-year long career, “Always love the hate” may be the exact words that truly sums everything all up. There are people who hate Bryant for a number of reasons, some of these have to do with a rape case he had faced back in 2003. But no matter what haters say, the Black Mamba flourished. And today, Bryant prevails.
Kobe will go down in NBA history as a player with awesome skills on the court, so awesome and awe inspiring in fact, that people are willing to pay more than $10,000 to watch him play one last time live. The Black Mamba has done it, he’s going to be immortalized in history for all time along with the likes of Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. For him, however, getting to this point wasn’t easy. What made the difference for Bryant was he faced it. He took the accusations along with the spectacle it had created. And from here, he set a course to repair his marriage and work even harder on his career.
In June 2003, Bryant had checked in to the Cordillera Lodge and Spa in Edwards, Colorado for a knee operation. This is where he met his accuser, an employee who had shown the NBA player around for a private tour. Bryant would go on to say that what happened next was consensual sex. The 19-year old woman who had shown her tattoos to Bryant said it was not.
He was arrested for the rape in July 2003.
Detectives proceeded to question Bryant after allegations were brought against him. According to a transcript of the interview published by The Smoking Gun, the Los Angeles Lakers player denied having sexual intercourse with the woman at first, but later admitted it. He also made his priorities clear during the interview: his career and his wife.
He posted a $25,000 bond.
Bryant would go on to apologize to his wife for the incident in public with tears in his eyes. With his wife beside him, he said, “I’m sorry for having to put you through this and having to put our family through this.” At first, it seemed it was not enough to keep his marriage together as his wife Vanessa decided to file for divorce. After some time, however, the couple got back together and became the very picture of a happy family along with their two daughters.
As for the allegation, the case was settled out of court. It went away and just in time. According to a report from Forbes, because Bryant’s case was dismissed, sponsors like Nike would have had to keep paying Bryant based on the contract he had signed even if they were no longer planning to use his name. Based on what we’re seeing now though, it seems Nike is loving Bryant just fine.
In 2006, Bryant started wearing number 24 – a change interpreted by some as an indication that he has completely moved on from all the controversies.
On April 13, 2016, Bryant scored 60 points in his last game in the NBA. Played more than 40 minutes, scored consecutive 17 points and gave the Lakers the win over Jazz.
Shaquille O’Neal, a former teammate who has had a love and hate affair with Bryant, has also come forward to attest to his character. According to O’Neal’s interview with Aol., he even believes that Bryant is the “greatest Laker to ever live.”
With five championship rings on hand, Bryant walks off the court whole, largely untainted man. The whole world celebrated with him – a bittersweet goodbye.