Kobe Bryant should be remembered for both his 2003 sexual assault charge and for his stellar career, fellow NBA star Charles Barkley said Friday, weighing in on the ongoing debate over the Lakers legend’s legacy.
“Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players ever, and he had a flaw that we all know about,” Barkley told TODAY.
“You have to tell the picture in totality,” the Hall of Famer said.
“We’re not trying to make Kobe out to be no hero. We’re celebrating his basketball excellence. We understand what happened in Colorado,” he added, referring to the sexual assault allegations levied against Bryant when he was 24.
“That’s fair. But two things can be true.”
In the three weeks since Bryant, 41, perished in a helicopter crash with daughter Gianna, 13, and seven others, the details of the retired star’s 2003 sexual assault case have resurfaced, most notably during CBS anchor Gayle King’s controversial interview of WNBA star Lisa Leslie.
On Thursday, a bitter feud between Snoop Dogg and King over the interview appeared to end amicably with King accepting rapper’s apology for threatening her in a rant last week.
Bryant was never convicted in the complicated, Colorado assault case, which ended when the charges were dropped and Bryant and his accuser, 19, reached a civil settlement.
“Me and Kobe were not close,” Barkley said in Friday’s interview, sitting alongside fellow “Inside the NBA” hosts Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson.
“But I just started crying when I got the news. I felt like I had lost a member of my family.”
O’Neal also said the death hit him very hard. His son showed him the news online, remembered O’Neal, who won three titles with Bryant in the early 2000s.
“(I said) ‘Stop playing with me. Get out of my face with that right now. Just stop,’ And then I got the calls.”
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