In 2003, a woman said Kobe Bryant raped her at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in Colorado, and Bryant was charged with felony sexual assault. The case never went to trial after the woman decided she didn't want to testify, and the charges were dropped.
In an interview with Kent Babb of the Washington Post titled "The Revisionist," Bryant spoke about that court case, the public's reaction to him and why he created the Black Mamba persona:
"I don't know what would've happened had I not figured it out. Because the whole process for me was trying to figure out how to cope with this. I wasn't going to be passive and let this thing just swallow me up. You've got a responsibility: Family, baby, organization, whole city, yourself—how do you figure out how to overcome this? Or just deal with it and not drown from this thing? And so it was this constant quest: To figure out how do you do that, how do you do that, how do you do that? So I was bound to figure something out because I was so obsessively concerned about it."
Bryant told Babb what the Black Mamba persona was about.
"During the Colorado situation, I said: 'You know what? I'm just going to be me. I'm just going to be me,'" Bryant said. "F--k it. If I don't like a question from a reporter, I'm going to say it. If they ask me a question about this thing, I'm just going to tell them the truth. Like me or don't like me for me."
Bryant, in essence, was able to move the mainstream narrative away from the allegations. But as he has moved into the creative space following his basketball career and won an Oscar for best animated short film (Dear Basketball), the allegations have returned to the forefront as the #MeToo movement continues to bring to light the issue of sexual assault and harassment around the United States as well as the globe.
The woman told a detective that she consented to going to Bryant's room and kissing him, but that he then began to grope her against her wishes, putting his hands around her neck and then raping her.
Bryant said the entire encounter was consensual, and the case was dropped after the woman did not want to testify.
"The victim has informed us, after much of her own labored deliberation, that she does not want to proceed with this trial," the district attorney said at the time, per Kirk Johnson of the New York Times. "For this reason, and this reason only, the case is being dismissed."
"Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did," Bryant said in a statement at the time, as read by his attorney, per Babb. "After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter."
In 2005, Bryant settled a civil case brought forth by the woman.
Since his playing career ended, Bryant has turned to the creative world, from a children's book entitled The Mamba Mentality to The Punies podcast, alongside Dear Basketball and other upcoming projects.
But much like the Mamba personality was an attempt to distance himself from the rape allegations and change the narrative around his career, Babb wrote that "some within Bryant's circle suggest he has convinced himself that Colorado either never happened or that, if he continues flooding his resume with accomplishments, the public will neither remember nor care."
Bryant was dropped from the jury of the Animation Is Film Festival this year after a petition requested his removal because of the 2003 allegations and stated "this is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women," per Cindy Boren of the Washington Post.