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Kobe Bryant Remembered— the Good and the Bad

The NBA great is mourned, even as his complicated legacy is dissected
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2020 5:00 PM CST

(Newser) – The world is mourning Kobe Bryant, with many pointing out the NBA great's complicated legacy. We round up a sampling of the reactions to the 41-year-old's death Sunday in a helicopter crash, which also killed eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter.

  • "I’m screaming right now, cursing into the sky, crying into my keyboard, and I don’t care who knows it," writes Bill Plaschke at the Los Angeles Times, where he launched his column right around the time Bryant launched his career with the LA Lakers. Plaschke last spoke to Bryant a week ago, when he asked him about LeBron James passing him on the all-time scoring list. "The edge was gone. The arms were open. He urged acceptance of LeBron. He preached calm for Lakers fans. He said greatness wasn’t worth anything if you couldn’t share it," Plaschke writes. "The steely-eyed Mamba was purposely moving into a role of a wise, embracing and grateful leader of a community that had shown him so much patience and love."
  • As Robert Silverman points out in the Daily Beast, there was more to Bryant than just his incredible basketball accomplishments. He was accused of raping a 19-year-old in 2003, and though she ultimately refused to testify and the charges were cleared, "it is impossible to read through the legal documents and not come away repulsed," Silverman writes. Yet that doesn't take away from the joy Bryant brought to many, he concludes. "The loss and anguish felt by millions, myself included, is all too real. But if we are to celebrate the life of Kobe Bryant, it means celebrating both a brilliant, beloved, unique performer and a flawed human being—the entire story."

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  • Nancy Armour has a similar perspective at USA Today. Though he did not admit guilt in the 2003 case, "his statement when the case was dropped was a stunning admission of culpability," she writes. (Here's a great 2016 piece on that apology.) "A proud father of four daughters, a man who became perhaps the biggest champion of women’s sports and female athletes, also allegedly raped a woman," Armour writes. She notes that while some will say it's "disrespectful" to bring this up in the wake of his death, "All of this—the good and the bad, the public face and the private darkness—is part of who Kobe Bryant was. To ignore that, or shout down those who won’t, puts Bryant in a neat little box where he doesn’t fit."
  • Jemele Hill remembers arguing with Bryant for an hour when he reached out to her (she worked at ESPN at the time) after she criticized his lack of support for Trayvon Martin. "He explained to me that he was speaking from the experience of someone who had been on trial for sexual assault and, in his mind, had been wrongfully accused," she writes at the Atlantic. But ultimately he listened to her, and ended up apologizing to Martin's parents. Hill notes that Bryant continued to grow: "Once the epitome of precocious arrogance, he evolved into being a true champion for others."
  • At the New Yorker, Louisa Thomas calls Bryant "basketball's great storyteller," and notes that after he retired from the game, "He launched podcasts, movies, television shows. Many of them were about why he was set apart from the world, even as he tried to connect with it." He made no secret of the more difficult aspects of his personality, including his intense competitive streak. But in the end, as she watched a viral clip of Kobe and Gianna intensely talking basketball while courtside at a game, Thomas realized, "It was always a mistake to think that he only wanted to win. He wanted to do so many things."
(Read more Kobe Bryant stories.)

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