Kobe’s finally one of the boys

Kobe Bryant, while gripping his wife’s hand and with a tear sliding down his left cheek, admitted to adultery at a press conference last week but said the sexual assault he is charged with was actually consensual sex.

True or not, it doesn’t matter. Everything has changed now.

No longer will fans of pro basketball be able to hold the Los Angeles Laker up as a symbol of what’s right with the National Basketball Association. Is there anything right in the NBA any more? Pundits predicting that character issues will doom the NBA now have a tanker-truck worth of fuel for the fire.

Kobe spoke with candor and conviction at Friday’s press conference. Talking into the microphone but essentially addressing only his wife Vanessa, Bryant said, “You’re my backbone. You’re a blessing. You’re a piece of my heart. You’re the air I breathe. You’re the strongest person I know, and I’m so sorry for having to put you through this and having to put our family through this.”


Does he really mean it? Whether or not Bryant really forced the 19-year-old hotel employee from Eagle, Colo., to have sex with him will hopefully come out in the trial, but I believe that the damage is already done. Having unprotected sex out of wedlock is one of the most disrespectful and spiteful things a man can do. Passive-aggressively, it’s like punching your woman in the belly.

Barely 10 years after the fact, it seems the sad legacy of Magic Johnson has stopped being a teaching tool. Even on Magic’s own Lakers squad, the lesson of a brilliant career cut short by carnal stupidity is an in-one-ear-out-the-other message. And now we must lump Kobe Bryant’s name in with all the other morons and jerks who stomp around the Association making babies with strangers and compromising their own health and the health of the ones they actually love.

One of the victim’s friends has said she still shows signs of injury three weeks after the alleged assault. It has also come out that the accuser overdosed on prescription pills a couple of months ago, that she tried out for “American Idol” but didn’t make it, that she wants to sing and act, that she was a cheerleader, and that she was in choir. So what? She had better be ready to be really strong in the face of all of this, because it is going to be Bryant’s attorneys’ goal to find out as much destructive information about her as they can.

In cases like these, especially when the defendant has money, the defense often circles its wagons around the simple notion that the accuser is only looking for fame and money from the accused, a man who is innocent and actually a victim himself. And you know Bryant’s attorneys are going to try to make his accuser look as morally bankrupt and unstable as possible, whether she is or not.

Poor Vanessa Bryant. She and Kobe have been married for two years, and she must be wondering if the money and glamour is worth it all now. Has Kobe been leaving “physical evidence” at stops around the league, then coming home to his wife and new baby and sharing what he picked up from groupies across North America? According to the court documents from District Court in Eagle County, Colo., Bryant, if convicted, faces four years to life in prison, 20 years to life on probation, and $3,000 to $750,000 in fines. Vanessa must be committed to standing by Kobe for a long time, because this won’t be over for a while.

Some folks have been calling for Bryant to not play basketball again until the case is resolved, but it’s not likely that will happen. His L.A. Lakers team, fresh off signing Gary Payton and Karl Malone, two future Hall-of-Famers, still needs Bryant and his 30 points per game. Nike just signed Bryant to a $45 million contract. Of course, prison-league ball would not be a good place for Kobe to showcase his skills or his new kicks.

Until everyone’s version of the truth comes out at the likely trial, it is impossible and hurtful to acquit, condemn or lay blame. But a verdict has been reached in the court of public opinion: Kobe Bryant has finally achieved membership in that most popular and awful NBA gang, the dimwit club.