Charles Barkley thinks Kobe Bryant should be remembered for his amazing basketball career and for the sexual assault allegation against him in 2003.
“Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players ever, and he had a flaw that we all know about,” Barkley told NBC’s Today show on Friday ahead of this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game.
“You have to tell the picture in totality,” the Hall of Famer added. “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.”
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During his interview with fellow Inside the NBA hosts Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson, Barkley said the news of Bryant’s death hit him hard.
“Me and Kobe were not close,” Barkley said. “But I just started crying when I got the news. I felt like I had lost a member of my family.”
Bryant, 41, and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Jan. 26.
In 2003, the Los Angeles Lakers star was accused of sexually assaulting a Colorado hotel employee. The charges were later dropped after the accuser declined to cooperate with prosecutors, and reached an out-of-court settlement with Bryant. The NBA champion issued a statement saying the sexual encounter may not have seemed consensual to his accuser.
After Bryant’s death, his fans attacked CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King on social media for calling the five-time NBA champion’s legacy “complicated” during a controversial interview with WNBA star Lisa Leslie.
Among those criticizing King was rapper Snoop Dogg, who warned the journalist in an Instagram post to “back off b–ch before we come get you.”
Snoop apologized Thursday and admitted he “overreacted.” King accepted the apology and said she understands “the raw emotions caused by this tragic loss.”