WNBA legend Lisa Leslie has defended her friend Kobe Bryant in the wake of his death, saying his legacy is not complicated despite the rape allegation against him.
Former Los Angeles Sparks player Leslie, 47, said the man she knew would never do ‘something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way’.
Leslie, who had known Kobe since he was 18 years old, told CBS: ‘That’s just not the person that I know.’
In 2003, a 19-year-old woman accused Bryant of sexually assaulting her while he was in Eagle, Colorado, for a knee operation.
Leslie told Gayle King: ‘It’s not complicated for me at all. Even if there’s a few times that we’ve been at a club at the same time, Kobe’s not the kind of guy, never been, like, “Lis, go get that girl, or tell her, or send her this”.
‘I have other NBA friends that are like that. Kobe, he was never like that.’
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 4, 2020
Bryant reportedly asked the young woman, a concierge at the hotel Bryant was staying, for a private tour. After the tour, Bryant invited the woman to his room where they began kissing.
Bryant asserted that they had consensual sex, but the woman said it was rape.
The woman later reported the alleged rape, with authorities finding bruises on her neck and tears to her vaginal wall.
Flanked by lawyers and his wife, Vanessa Bryant, he admitted to committing adultery, but maintained his innocence at the allegations at a press conference. He later entered a not guilty plea.
The criminal case never went to trial as the woman refused to testify in court, but Bryant later settled with the woman in civil court.
Leslie said of the allegations on Monday: ‘That’s just not the person that I know.’
When asked if that was because she was Bryant’s friend Leslie replied: ‘That’s possible. I just don’t believe that, and I’m not saying things didn’t happen. I just don’t believe that things didn’t happen with force.’
Adding that the media ‘should be more respectful’, Leslie said: ‘It’s like if you had questions about it, you had many years to ask him that. I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy.’
After the criminal case’s dismissal, Bryant issued a public apology to the woman.
‘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,’ he said.
‘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.’
Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash around 10am on January 26. The nine victims also included: John Altobelli, a baseball coach at Orange Coast College, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa; basketball coach Christina Mauser; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton; and the pilot Ara Zobayan.
The group was heading towards the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks from John Wayne Airport near Bryant’s home in Newport Beach. The flight took off shortly after 9am and around 9.20am, Zobayan circled above Burbank Airport for 15 minutes.
Disney heiress Abigail Disney shared 24 tweets following his death where she doubled down on her stance about the Los Angeles Lakers all-star’s past, but admitted she still ‘mourned’ him. She first addressed Bryant’s rape allegations in a tweet four days after he died, writing: ‘The man was a rapist. Deal with it.’
Others who have highlighted Bryant’s rape allegations have received overwhelming backlash.
Actress Evan Rachel Woods received intense condemnation after sharing a tweet about Bryant on the day he died. ‘I am heartbroken for Kobe’s family. He was a sports hero. He was also a rapist. And all of these truths can exist simultaneously,’ she said.
A Washington Post reporter was suspended from her job for tweeting a link to a past Daily Beast article that examined Bryant’s case.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Lauren Fruen