Kobe Bryant had an illustrious NBA career but faced controversies off the court
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
- Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash alongside his daughter Gianna on Sunday. He was 41.
- Bryant, who retired from the NBA in 2016, had an illustrious basketball career that spanned 20 years.
- While Bryant was a beloved athlete whose influence on the game is still felt, he also faced a sexual assault allegation and dealt with other controversies off the court.
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NBA icon Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, had an illustrious basketball career and his influence can still be felt in the league today - but he had a complicated legacy off the court.
Bryant, who had a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers until his retirement in 2016, was accused of sexual assault as a young player, experienced criticism over an Academy Award win in the wake of the #MeToo era in Hollywood, and faced other minor controversies throughout his life.
In 2003, Bryant was charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment after being accused of rape by a hotel employee in Colorado. The charges were later dropped, and Bryant settled a separate civil case over the allegations.
Bryant did not admit guilt in the incident, but he did issue a statement through his attorney in which he apologized to the woman.
"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," the apology said. "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 case ends today, another remains."
Bryant continued to play in the NBA for more than a decade after the allegations first surfaced.
But they were brought up again in 2018, when Bryant won an Oscar for his short animated film, "Dear Basketball."
In the wake of the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, which saw multiple men be accused of sexual misconduct, including Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, some people were surprised that Bryant was being celebrated over the animated short.
The Los Angeles Times' Robin Abcarian said in an essay that the time that there was a "moral confusion" in the academy,.
"Why are the sexual misdeeds of some men forgivable, while others are not?" Abcarian wrote, while also mentioning Roman Polanski and Ryan Seacrest.
Elsewhere off the court, Bryant faced criticism among Armenian Americans after he signed a two-year endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines in 2010. Armenian Americans have called for the the killings of about 1.5 million Armenians in the early 20th Century to be called genocide, something the Turkish government has rejected.
In 2011, Bryant was fined $100,000 for directing a gay slur at a referee during a game.
"My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period," he said at the time, according to ESPN. "The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone."
Despite the controversies, Bryant's legacy is still felt across the NBA. A moment of silence was held at the first NBA game of the day on Sunday after news of Bryant's death broke. Athletes, politicians, and celebrities alike have spoken out about his death, issuing condolences and telling stories of his life.
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