All nine victims of crash identified, shadow lingers over Bryant legacy
Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with 13-year old daughter Gigi and seven others. The six other passengers and the pilot have been identified as John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, pilot Ara Zobayan, and Sarah and Payton Chester.
An outpouring of grief followed the news of a great basketball player’s sudden death, along with the revisitation to the sexual assault case that mars his career on the court.
While the initial response on Sunday was grief and honor in remembrance of a great basketball player and a charming wit, the shadow of a 2003 sexual assault case followed his death as it did his life, and undoubtedly will follow his legacy.
Bryant was accused of rape by a Colorado woman, and while the criminal case was never fully prosecuted, a civil case was settled out of court in 2004, and the facts and allegations hung around him for the next 15 years like the thick fog that pervaded Southern California the day his helicopter fell to the ground.
In the aftermath of his untimely death, and the incredible loss felt by the family and friends of the deceased, the echoes of Bryant’s legal troubles came back to the spotlight as a reminder that allegations and criminal charges leave an indelible mark on the lives and communities they impact. In the era of #metoo, this early accusation in a time when sexual assault victims were not given as fair a shake as they are today, the shadow of the cases against Bryant linger even as the tears of his loss still dry on the faces of those who lost loved ones.
Following the case dismissal, Bryant issued 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 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.”
During his career, and after his retirement from basketball, Bryant showed a dedication to his family and his community. His adoration for his daughters was well-documented as was his philanthropy and generosity.
“I hope, one day, people will look back on my career and see everything that I’ve been through, everything that my fans have been through . . . and I just stayed steady. I didn’t wig out. I just stayed steady, I stayed professional,” Bryant said.
Bryant was known for a offensively perfect basketball game, and ironically his legacy is tarnished by his time as a defendant.
Bryant’s troubled career is something his legacy will wrestle with as long as he is remembered. There will always be the bright lights of Staples Center shining on his performance on the court, and like the darkness that surrounds the Staples Center as the Lakers play each night, the reality of his off-the-court troubles remain a contrast to an otherwise near-perfect basketball career.
Kobe Bryant’s final Twitter activity was directed at his greatest on-court rival, Lebron James. James offered a statement on Bryant’s passing on January 27.
LeBron mourns the death of Kobe Bryant pic.twitter.com/GB3YgN1DPR— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 28, 2020
Alicia Keys hosted the Grammys on the eve of Bryant’s passing with a moving homage to his legacy.
“We love you Kobe.” @aliciakeys and Boyz II Men sing in tribute to Kobe Bryant and his family at the opening of the #Grammys
Via @THRJanuary 26, 2020
The horrific accident has impacted the sports world and sports fans across the globe. Twitter exploded in an outpouring of grief.
Kobe’s last tweet was in honor of his greatest rival.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
On Jan. 26, the Twitterverse gave homage to one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
LeBron talking about how Kobe inspired him, 15 hours before Kobe died. Hard to watch pic.twitter.com/qnYHfuQLV3— Jake Emery (@emers4) January 26, 2020
RIP to Kobe and Gianna. What was once a meme is now a loving memory of a father and daughter. pic.twitter.com/gakXCH6AL4— Brendan Walker @ #ProBowl 2020 (@BWalkerNFL) January 26, 2020
Bryant’s basketball career:
Bryant entered the NBA at age 18 and spent all 20 years of his storied career as a Los Angeles Laker. Known as the Mamba, his killer instinct at the end of games was signature to his success as the leader of his Lakers championship teams.
Bryant died at age 41 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.