From a GQ story out today (Note: GQ isn’t known as the most morally sound site, so please be cautious if you visit for the whole article, I link only for attribution purposes):
Which brings us to the hinge-point in the career of Kobe Bryant: the week he checked into a Colorado hotel room, had sex with a woman who worked there, and was subsequently arrested on a sexual-assault charge. A year later, the charges were dropped and Bryant apologized. But the incident will (obviously) never go away. When Bryant dies, the accusation will probably appear in the second paragraph of his obituary. And he knows this.
“I started to consider the mortality of what I was doing,” he says. At the time, he was 24. “What’s important? What’s not important? What does it mean when everybody loves you, and then everybody hates your guts for something they think you did? So that’s when I decided that—if people were going to like me or not like me—it was going to be for who I actually was. To hell with all that plain vanilla shit, just to get endorsement deals. Those are superficial, anyway. I don’t enjoy doing them, anyway. I’ll just show people who I actually am…. The [loss of the] endorsements were really the least of my concerns. Was I afraid of going to jail? Yes. It was twenty-five to life, man. I was terrified. The one thing that really helped me during that process—I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic—was talking to a priest. It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ‘Did you do it?’ And I say, ‘Of course not.’ Then he asks, ‘Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ‘Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ‘Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point.”
Most people know right away who Kobe Bryant is without explanation. But for those of you who may not, the simplest way to explain him is to say that he was once called “the next Michael Jordan,” and that quickly turned into “could he be better than Jordan?” He is the all time leading scorer for the Los Angeles Lakers. He won 3 NBA championships in his first years in the league, is a perennial All-Star, a 3-time Gold Medalist, Slam Dunk Champion, NBA MVP, Scoring leader… the list goes on.
But, since 2003 what most of his bio’s mention, almost immediately, is a 2003 sexual assault charge. Over the course of the next year as the legal battle waged, his image and name were decimated in the media. His rise from High School star, to heir apparent in the NBA, to his icy cool demeanor, all compounded with this crime resulted in huge fall from the top.
The charges were eventually dropped by prosecutors after the accuser refused to testify. Bryant admitted that he had an adulterous encounter, but denied the rape allegations. Yet, he did apologize publicly:
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 am not here to exonerate or even apologize for Bryant, his actions, or his days since. This is simply to say, that there has always been something about this story that made me wonder how he got through it, how he had some of his best years AFTER the fact. Many sports stars will enter a storm, come out ok on the immediate other side, but languish soon after. Kobe more or less did the opposite, but for some teammate and injury problems.
But all that said, more than a decade later he mentions his faith, specifically his CATHOLIC faith. He could have referenced God, and leave out the Church, especially knowing how it is viewed in professional sports and the media world. But he didn’t…
I am not here to re-try, or litigate his case. I am here simply to say that it is impressive, only in-and-of-itself, that Bryant trumpets his Catholic faith as what he leaned on during his darkest days.