The sudden death of Kobe Bryant has seen not only legions of fans mourn the deceased NBA superstar, but has stirred up controversy over whether it is appropriate to mention his sexual assault charges. Charles Barkley, never one to avoid controversy, recently shared his thoughts on mentioning the case while speaking about the late athlete, saying both his greatness and the aforementioned allegations are part of his legacy.
TNT’s Inside the NBA hosts — Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, and Barkley — spoke to Today‘s Craig Melvin (via YouTube) in preparation for the upcoming NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago. They had a lengthy discussion about the tragic crash which took the lives of Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others. On the subject of Bryant’s legacy, the host mentioned the recent controversy with certain people upset that the 41-year-old’s 2003 sexual assault case was being discussed so soon after his death.
Melvin asked the NBA personalities “whether it was even appropriate to bring up allegations from [Bryant’s] past.” Smith was the first to answer and said that everyone is “imperfect.” For Smith, what drew fans to the Lakers legend was his on-court “greatness.”
Barkley answered next and prefaced his response by clarifying he did not know Bryant well but took the news of his passing very hard.
“Me and Kobe were not close,” the 1993 league MVP said. “But I just started crying when I got the news. I felt like I had lost a member of my family.”
The TNT personality then spoke candidly about discussing the allegations levied against Bryant, saying that broadcasters should discuss the former player’s legacy as a whole and not omit the troubling parts of his past. The 56-year-old said he wants the NBA icon celebrated for his on-court exploits while also remembered for his flaws.
“Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players ever and he had a flaw that we all know about. You have to tell the picture in totality. We’re not trying to make Kobe out to be no hero. We’re celebrating his basketball excellence. We understand what happened in Colorado. That’s fair, but two things can be true.”
O’Neal, who won three championships playing alongside Bryant, said his son was the first person to tell him about the crash. Initially, he thought it was a hoax until he “got the calls” telling him it wasn’t.
As covered by The Inquisitr, Gayle King came under intense scrutiny when she asked WNBA great Lisa Leslie about Bryant’s “complicated” legacy. This led to Snoop Dogg releasing a profanity-laced video directed toward King.
The rapper later apologized, and the CBS reporter released a statement accepting his apology.