Kobe Bryant’s legacy is a fascinating one. Here is this person I rooted against, basketball wise, for most of his career, while venturing in different Facebook sports groups and barbershops, trying to convince Kobe fans why he was overrated during his playing career.
And yes, it seems petty now. But trust me, it was petty at the time. But me and Petty are thicker than thieves, so I have no remorse about that.
Kobe’s rape allegation obviously goes beyond basketball. At the time, it was a big deal, and followed very closely by a lot of us who were old enough to be aware of how serious this allegation was.
But then it was over.
Just like that, the case was dismissed, Kobe paid a settlement—which was probably pennies to him—and him and his lawyers released a public statement, almost coming across as an apology.
And this was all before #MeToo.
Years went by, with people bringing up the $4,000,000 apology ring before they would bring up the reason he purchased the Heart of The Ocean Rose’s old ass threw into the watery abyss at the end of Titanic. Years went by with people seemingly forgetting the allegation, as Kobe enjoyed successes on and off the court.
Well, that is until he was nominated for an Oscar for “Dear Basketball.”
There was Kobe, venturing foreign lands outside of the basketball arena, and exceeding expectations almost immediately. But as his off the court successes started happening, so did the resurrection of his sexual assault accusation.
See, social media never got an opportunity to litigate this accusation with the same hot-take nuance it does now. Our timelines never had the opportunity be occupied by Kobe updates, which would’ve included intimate details of the young lady’s mental health, or just as cringe worthy, her sex life, that, undoubtedly, would’ve drove a series of back and forth comments as to whether her having an active sex life somehow precludes her from being a rape victim.
In 2004, the art of Victim Blaming was an acceptable art form back then.
But after his Oscar happened in 2018, the re-litigation happened. The Hollywood/Social Media Depositions weren’t very bombastic, but it was loud enough for most of us to hear Hollywood question whether Kobe deserved to be nominated for their most prestigious award. Kobe, undoubtedly heard the these same rumblings. There were articles being written, blogs being posted and people boycotting his nomination and subsequent Oscar victory.
And yet, Kobe did it with a smile.
A smile that that could’ve been genuine, or a smile that could’ve been masking pain, embarrassment , guilt, or none of the above or all of the above. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I noticed something the night he won the Oscar. It was inconspicuous and seemed inconsequential to most, but to me, it was a game changer. I’ve been following Kobe on social media for years because I’ve always been of fan of who he was as a human being and I’ve always greatly admired his intellect. And that night, at an Oscar afterparty, he surrounded himself around other black people.
Maybe he naturally gravitated to the other black people at the Oscar afterparty like we do when we’re at a majority white school and we rush to the black occupied tables in the cafeteria. There, we are greeted by other black kids, and we spend the entire lunch period talking shit about/to each other. Talking black kid shit in a room full of white kids.
Maybe Kobe was talking black folk shit in a room full of white folks. Or maybe he felt comfortable around the other black folks because they would be less likely to judge how he—a former black basketball player who was once accused of raping a white woman—occupied a space commonly reserved for white Hollywood elites.
Or maybe it was both.
But those pictures of him posing with other famous black people, that he would go on to post and caption it with the hashtag, #BlackExcellence, made me proud, but it also made me ponder. Kobe rarely talked about race, at least not outwardly, and so I wondered, after looking at those pictures, what was going through his mind at the time. Because he seemingly sought out other black people in the room, or maybe they sought him out, or maybe it was both. Maybe the relationships were built, or maybe he needed to be in a judgement free black environment in order to escape the judgement filled room.
But I do know this rape allegation is apart of Kobe’s legacy. And this legacy, the good and bad, created this imperfect superhero. Someone we witnessed grow up, as he navigated life’s journey, both the joys and pains. For better or worse, we grew up with Kobe. And when this dark period of his legacy is brought up, I choose not take offense.
And if this dark period of his legacy is brought up with nefarious intent, just smile, like Kobe.