Lisa Leslie Says Kobe Bryant’s Sexual Assault Charges Don’t Tarnish His Legacy, Asks Media To Be Respectful

Lisa Leslie speaking at the 27th Annual Great Sports Benefit
Theo Wargo / Getty Images

Tributes continue to pour in after tragedy struck when Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others perished in a helicopter accident. Along with the tributes, there have been some media personalities focusing on the basketball icon’s sexual assault charges, and questioning his innocence in the case.

The charges were laid against Bryant by a 19-year-old hotel worker in Colorado, and the case was dropped when she refused to testify in court.

WNBA legend Lisa Leslie appeared on CBS This Morning for an interview with Gayle King to discuss her late friend. During the interview, King brought up the sexual assault case and said that it “complicates” Bryant’s legacy.

Leslie was quick to defend Bryant.

“It’s not complicated for me at all,” she replied to King.

The Basketball Hall of Famer then cited the times she was out at nightclubs with the Laker legend and how he was always respectful to her and other women.

“Kobe’s not the kind of guy, never been, like, ‘Lis, go get that girl,’ or ‘tell her,’ or ‘send her this.'” she added. “Kobe, he was never like that.”

The former Los Angeles Sparks center says she never saw Bryant “do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way.” While she believes that he would have never forced himself on a woman, she acknowledged that he had a sexual relationship with his accuser, albeit one that was consensual.

“I just don’t believe that, and I’m not saying things didn’t happen. I just don’t believe that things didn’t happen with force,” she said on CBS.

In addition to saying the allegations do not complicate Bryant’s legacy, Leslie wants members of the media to focus on the other aspects of his career.

“I think the media should be more respectful at this time,” the 47-year-old said. “It’s like if you had questions about it, you had many years to ask him that. I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy.”

Just hours after Bryant’s passing was announced, Felicia Sonmez, a reporter for The Washington Post, came under fire when she tweeted out a link about his “disturbing rape case.” Controversy arose when she was suspended by the publication for the insensitive timing of the tweets.

Additionally, comedian Ari Shaffir received backlash when he posted on social media that he was happy Bryant had died.

“A guy who got away with rape got his today,” Shaffir said in an Instagram video.

He later apologized for his statements and said it was only dark humor.