Kobe should ignore lawyers, talk

We've heard from the wide-eyed young prosecutor and the flinty small-town sheriff, learning a whole lot of nothing about this Kobe Bryant bombshell from the authorities' news conference Monday in Eagle, Colo.

We've heard from Bryant's attorneys, in a statement disputing a sexual-assault accusation and pointing a finger at the cops. And we've heard from Bryant's friends, enthusiastic character witnesses all.

We're dizzy from hearing all the legal evasions, mumbo-jumbo and speculation.

Now, Kobe Bryant's fans deserve to hear from Kobe himself.

Until we do, it's impossible to know what to feel except shocked confusion.


Fans, employers and reporters have been extraordinarily kind to the Lakers' leading scorer amid reports of his arrest on suspicion of assaulting a woman in a Vail-area hotel on the last day in June. From usually cynical sports opinion-makers, he has received nothing but the benefit of the doubt in a matter where there's nothing but doubt. Public reaction has amounted to universal incredulity that such a nice young man could be mixed up in something this sordid.

As the district attorney and the sheriff held their no-news conference, a CNN graphic read, "Bryant is Known for His Clean Image."

Has anybody ever gotten such positive publicity while facing felony charges?

Los Angeles -- the world, really -- is prepared to believe Kobe more than perhaps any other celebrity athlete.

So now he owes his fans a statement.

He should stand behind a microphone and give us a clear denial if nothing happened or a clear explanation if something did.

If a president can get up and lie to the nation about sexual impropriety amid an official investigation -- and get away with it -- then a basketball star can get up and tell the truth.

Of course, that's precisely what Bryant's lawyers probably are instructing him not to do, the same advice they'd give to any criminal defendant.


But Kobe Bryant won't be just any criminal defendant if Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert opts to file charges, a decision that could take several days, Hurlbert said Monday.

He is, according to a Sports Business Daily survey taken in 2001, the "most marketable" player in the NBA, which is why Nike and Sprite pay millions for his endorsement. He is, judging by fans' All-Star voting last season, the most popular player in the NBA.

He has done his sport -- and much-maligned sports profession -- proud by projecting his wholesome image, no mean feat for a guy who made his pro debut at age 18, even given the benefit of being a second-generation NBA player.

He has profited from his image, too.

Silence will only permit speculation to corrode that image.

Although Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and teammates have praised Bryant's character, Kobe himself has made no public statement.

Because "sexual assault" can mean anything from forced touching to rape, at this point Kobe fans don't even know what they don't believe he did.

The mind swirls.


Kevin Modesti

Los Angeles Daily News

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