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"Kobe was a virtuoso" | John Gonzalez on Kobe Bryant and his 'messy' legacy

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

09:48 27 Jan 2020

As the sporting world wrestles with the loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, Off The Ball looked at the life of a sporting great whose story is by no means straightforward.

On Saturday evening, Bryant was overtaken by former Lakers team-mate LeBron James in the NBA scoring charts; by Sunday, people were confronting a life that included both incredible determination and questions over his conduct.

John Gonzalez of The Ringer holds Bryant as a "virtuoso" of basketball with a "messy" legacy - and joined us to discuss a death with personal resonance.

"He ruined our school, he dunked on a friend of mine and I've never let him forget about it," said Gonzalez of Bryant who always felt 'close at hand' during his life.

"You could see how exceptional it was from a young age; from when he was a kid and won a state championship.

"At the college that I went to in Philadelphia, there was a rumour that he might join because his dad went there, but he skipped that step.

"I was there the night of the All-Star game where he gave his shoes to LeBron, and the night that he announced his retirement."

With LeBron yet to publicly comment on Bryant's death, and the nature of news cycles, attention has begun to turn to his life as a whole.

Kobe Bryant: the legacy

The lingering question mark concerns the allegations of sexual assault and false imprisonment brought by a hotel worker in Colorado in 2003, culminating in a civil suit against Bryant and a public apology from him to the accuser.

"That's what makes talking about what Kobe Bryant and what he meant to people messy, said Gonzalez of the case.

"Initially the reaction [to the death] was shock, because Kobe meant so much to the NBA and the greater NBA community.

"I have seen the use of the word 'complicated' to hide behind what happened in Colorado, but I think that it is much more honest to directly say that everything that I said about Kobe Bryant in high school, him jumping to the NBA [...] and his impact are true.

"It is also true that he tried to be a good family man and that he was trying to spend more time with his daughter Gigi and that she brought him back into the NBA.

"But it is simultaneously true that what happened in Colorado happened.

"There was a civil settlement and a public apology where he admitted that his victim did not see it as consensual.

"All of these things are part of Kobe Bryant and what his life was and to take any piece out of it, or to whitewash it, would be a disservice.

"All of these things were part of what Kobe Bryant's life was and how he should be remembered."

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