Married with a child at the time (the couple now has two children), Bryant acknowledged having sex with his accuser but said he thought it was consensual. The charges eventually were dropped because the woman was unwilling to testify, but Bryant reportedly agreed to negotiate a monetary settlement, the terms of which were not revealed.
Even with the rush to judgment in the court of social media, being charged with a crime doesn’t mean you’re guilty. But Bryant needed just a couple of more NBA championships to largely repair his public image.
The Dallas Mavericks shot 13-19 from beyond the arc and used another late rally to beat the Heat and take a 3-2 lead in the NBA finals. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs' scorers with 29 points while LeBron James notched a triple-double in a losing effort.
The guy confirmed he committed adultery. Perhaps that’s not a big deal to everyone, but just imagine if James faced sexual assault charges and then acknowledged he had sex with his accuser. Twitter might break.
Unlike Bryant, James has never publicly blasted ownership and management while trying to force a trade or issued ultimatums about front-office hiring. James never tried to shout his way out of Cleveland. Over seven seasons, he lifted the Cavaliers as high as he could without another superstar-caliber player to help him.
About five years ago, I asked two Western Conference general managers whom they would choose first to begin building a championship team. Without hesitation, both said James.
Despite James’s disappointing Finals performance, both this week still said James would be their top pick because he affects the game more than any other player. They acknowledged, however, that James would benefit from finally developing a post game, and expressed doubt he would put in the time this summer because of his outside interests.
Each summer when he was in the league, Magic Johnson added something to his repertoire. Larry Bird refined this and that. Michael Jordan trained relentlessly to remain second to none. Bryant turned to Hakeem Olajuwon to become a force in the post as well as on the perimeter.
Eventually, the NBA’s expected lockout will end. That’s when we’ll know how much, if anything, James learned from the Heat’s frustrating finish. Either he’ll be ready to take the final step that would quiet his critics, or the target probably will grow bigger.