The best thing to happen to the NBA since Michael Jordan, Kobe is a breath of fresh air in an era of inflated egos and questionable character.

The son of a former NBA player Joe Bryant, Kobe jumped directly from high school to the pros in 1996 and enjoyed an impressive rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Despite his young age and lack of college hoops experience, Kobe has shown incredible maturity as a player. He routinely scores in double digits and was voted as a starter in the 1998 All-Star Game. Only 19 , he became the youngest All-Star in history.

And he is fine.

Free Kobe!

"Last week Bryant told the Los Angeles Times, 'You know me. You know I'd never do anything like that.' And we want to believe him, because to our knowledge Kobe Bryant hasn't ever done anything like that. He hasn't done anything more scandalous than occasionally take too many shots and not get Shaq enough shots. Kobe is just about the most likable young man in the NBA." - Tony Kornheiser, Washington Post

Yesterday evening, Kobe Bryant held a press conference shortly after it was announced that an unknown female was going to press charges of felonious sexual assault against the basketball superstar. According to prosecutors, and this one time cheerleader too scared to show her face, Kobe knowingly forced himself sexually on said female. However, during that press conference Kobe stated, “I sit here in front of you guys, furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery." In this powerful statement, Mr. Bryant admitted that he had sex with the girl, who is 19 years old.

"All we can say is that 'no' is supposed to mean 'no,' and any man who forces himself on a woman after she tells him 'no' is no longer just plain stupid. He is a criminal. A man must be very certain that what takes place between himself and a woman is consensual. Explaining yourself to a wife or Significant Other is hard enough, but explaining yourself to someone such as Eagle County DA Mark Hurlbert is something else." - Bob Ryan, Boston Globe

So what’s one to make of all this? At first I thought that this was just a joke of a lawsuit, as I’m sure most people did too. The state of Colorado, along with the unknown woman, was taking an unusual amount of time to figure out whether or not to press charges. Just when it seemed like we were going to find out if they were, they pushed it back again. To me, it smelled like a stupid lie. An attempt by one stupid American to get 15 minutes of fame with a bullshit lawsuit. They happen to all sorts of sports, and music, celebrities from all walks of life.

"Whatever occurred between Bryant and a 19-year old woman from Colorado on June 30 -- whether it was rape or consensual sex -- he is the one who put his career, team, family and image on the line by placing his libido ahead of the risk. If Bryant had been savvier, he would have discovered what several NBA veterans have said privately over the years: a professional stripper has no strings attached; a relative stranger is the greater danger. In other words, pay up front, not later." - Selena Roberts, New York Times

Humans, as we all know, are capable of all sorts of despicable acts and evil atrocities. Hitler, Stalin, Khmer Rouge, Ho Chi Minh, the list goes on and on. But Kobe Bryant? Please. The big flaw with this case is not Kobe’s personality, not the fact the woman hasn’t stepped forward and has nothing to do with Kobe’s admission of adultery. Think about it like this: you’re a young girl, currently trying to get by by working in a hotel. A celebrity comes in, and maybe somehow starts flirting with you, or you start flirting with him. I know if I was pumping gas at a gas station and Jennifer Lopez happened to stop by, I’d be all over her like stink on, well, y’know. He’s fucking Kobe Bryant! The guy is handsome, rich and athletic. I mean, just remember the stories about Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain. 10,000 women my arse, but I’m sure he got lots of play. If Kobe wanted to commit adultery, he definitely would not have to force himself on anyone.

"The Kobe Bryant I'm acquainted with wouldn't kick a dog, much less rape a woman. The Kobe Bryant I know glows when he talks about his wife, takes seriously his responsibility as a role model, rubs people the right way and is straighter than the free throw line. Which just goes to show how much I know." - Karen Crouse, Palm Beach Post

But that’s just my opinion, and I am very opinionated and sometimes tragically wrong. However, I’m really interested in what the prosecutors are going to use for evidence. I could claim until my lungs bleed that Ben Affleck owes me 20 million dollars, but unless I have some sort of proof, it’s just his word against mine, and he’d probably win.

The incident occurred on June 30, 2003. On July 2, 2003 Kobe went to a hospital to undergo a medical examination to find evidence, and presumably to take samples. He turned himself over to authorities on the fourth, and an hour later walked away on $25,000 bail.

"Whatever answering Bryant has already done with his wife must have been enough for him to get a date with her Wednesday night. The camera moved through the ESPY Awards audience and there was the smiling Kobe Bryant and there was the smiling Mrs. Bryant next to him. And trust me, this was no accident, even though Bryant and his attorneys had to have some idea by Wednesday that these charges were coming. This was about public relations, and show, Wednesday night." - Mike Lupica, New York Daily News

The media coverage is partially on the trial. It’s split between that, his team (including his two new teammates, Gary Payton and Karl Malone), and his endorsements. The media, as well as the NBA, is worried about his image. Michael Jordan, the best and most famous basketball player ever, still had his troubles with the law, and women too. Seeing as many see Kobe as the next Jordan, a lawsuit like this is not too surprising.

I wish Kobe the best, and thoroughly believe he is innocent of criminal activity. Idiocy and self-control is something else. No one can be perfect. I hope this won’t be drawn out, even though I know it will be.

"His new image is framed by a mug shot. His future home could be a prison. His once-golden life already has become a distant memory. No, the Class 3 felony sexual assault can be wrapped in the legal language of the state penal code, massaged and manipulated by defense lawyers and loyal friends and family members, but the outcome is already inscribed in big, bold, black and white letters: the All-Star guard with the impeccable persona and million-dollar endorsements is a flawed human being at best, a criminal at worst." - Ailene Voisin, Sacramento Bee

Here are the charges brought up on Kobe Bryant:

COUNT 1: that on or about the 30th day of June, 2003, in the said County of Eagle, State of Colorado KOBE BEAN BRYANT, unlawfully feloniously, and knowingly inflicted sexual intrusion or sexual penetration on (omission) causing submission of the victim by means of sufficient consequence reasonably calculated to cause submission against victim's will.

And here’s the law, according to the Colorado Bar, taken from ESPN.com

18-3-402. Sexual assault in the first degree. Any actor who knowingly inflicts sexual intrusion or sexual penetration on a victim commits a sexual assault in the first degree if: (a) The actor causes submission of the victim through the actual application of physical force or physical violence; or (b) The actor causes submission of the victim by threat of imminent death, serious bodily injury, extreme pain, or kidnapping, to be inflicted on anyone, and the victim believes that the actor has the present ability to execute these threats; or (c) The actor causes submission of the victim by threatening to retaliate in the future against the victim, or any other person, and victim reasonably believes the actor will execute this threat. As uses in this paragraph (c), "to retaliate" includes threats of kidnapping, death, serious bodily injury, or extreme pain; or (d) The actor has substantially impaired the victim's power to appraise or control the victim's conduct by employing, without the victim's consent, any drug, intoxicant, or other means for the purpose of causing submission; or (e) The victim is physically helpless and the actor knows the victim is physically helpless and the victim has not consented..

http://espn.go.com/nba/news/2003/0718/1582691.html
http://espn.go.com/nba/news/2003/0718/1582732.html
All quotations appeared in the respective saturday column in the sports section of the respective paper. They quotes were chosen from http://espn.go.com/nba/news/2003/0719/1582942.html. Thank you for not suing.

On January 22, 2006, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. 81 points put Kobe second on the all-time single game scoring record. The record is currently held by Wilt Chamberlain when he scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in 1962.

After scoring 26 points in the first half, Bryant exploded for 55 after the break - four shy of Chamberlain's record for points in a half. He outscored the Raptors by 14 points after halftime. Bryant made 28-of-46 shots - including 7-of-13 3-pointers - and 18-of-20 free throws. He shattered his previous career high of 62 points set vs. Dallas in just three quarters on December 20. With just under five minutes remaining and the Lakers leading, 108-96, Bryant knocked down a 3-pointer to join Chamberlain, former Laker Elgin Baylor, David Thompson, and David Robinson in the 70-point club - a threshold Jordan never reached.

After making a layup with 3:26 remaining to reach 74 points, Bryant scored his last seven from the free-throw line. He sank a pair of free throws with 43 seconds left to complete his magical performance and exited to a huge ovation with 4.2 seconds to go.

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