- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

Kobe Bryant has invited the flaccid judgment that he is all too human after hooking up with a 19-year-old woman not his wife.

The high number of commentators expressing shock is more shocking than the revelation.

Their standard giveaway line is: This is not the Kobe we know.

The superficial assumption comes from a fan-magazine familiarity with the principal.

In fact, we don’t really know Kobe, as if there is something to know or can be known from the nothingness of the sit-down interview format.

He probably is just another 24-year-old guy who, on most levels, is trying to figure it all out, which is neither good nor bad, just not anything of great depth.

How many times does the point have to be made that exceptional physical gifts do not necessarily translate into exceptional decision-making skills?

Bryant risked at least half his considerable estate with this brief affair, assuming he and his wife do not have an “understanding.”

That is the best you can say for Bryant at this point. The worst remains to be determined.

This is not going to go away from Bryant’s portfolio, not ever, not unless it can be shown that the woman is some kind of nut case. Even then, who knows?

The nut-case avenue beckons Bryant’s legal team, which is straight out of the Bill Clinton playbook.

By the time Bryant’s investigators pick through the woman’s background, every bad-hair day she ever has had will be subject to interpretation.

The quality of the woman’s mental health already is being put into public play, courtesy of a report in the Orange County (Calif.) Register, which reveals the woman took an overdose of pills two months ago following a break-up with a boyfriend and the death of a friend in a roadway accident.

This is the follow-up attack to the first, if the first really was an attack.

The news of an ill-focused suicide attempt complements the notion that Bryant was dealing with an unstable person. If so, who is the real victim?

It is unsavory business either way, with more bombshells expected to follow.

In a she-said, he-said legal drama, Bryant is liable to wiggle free from the justice system, but not from the suspicion that something other than infidelity was committed in the room of the upscale resort.

The Colorado district attorney did not proceed forward without first calibrating the case’s potential damage to his legal career. He found the evidence compelling enough to risk becoming an object of national ridicule.

One option before Bryant is to cut a deal and buy himself out of the ordeal. The downside is it would be tantamount to a guilty verdict, and the perception of him never would be the same.

As it is, it is hard to accept the charge against Bryant because of two elements: an impeccable record until he dropped into Eagle County, Colo., last month and the de-facto sex industry that is attached to the NBA.

The life of an NBA player is fraught with temptation. It almost takes an A.C. Green-like commitment to virginity to limit the number of fatherless inhabitants of the village.

The NBA’s combination of youth, wealth and celebrity serves as a strong magnet to the painted quasi-professionals in skin-tight outfits and spiked heels. You inevitably find the two groups inspecting each other at the high-end hotels and nightclubs.

Shawn Kemp is the worst-case scenario, if his seven children by six women is still the NBA standard of carelessness and stupidity.

Wilt Chamberlain, the late social scientist of sorts, kept score up to 20,000 women, which was more impressive than his 100-point game.

The NBA’s customary mating habits lend Bryant an air of plausible deniability.

He hardly has to impose himself on women, considering the standard NBA courtship begins with the snap of a finger.

His decision to spread his joy outside the NBA’s big-city environs was possibly his second mistake.

He could be the victim of a naive woman’s second thought, or worse.

The district attorney undoubtedly considered the woman’s credibility before moving to charge Bryant, which leads one to suspect that he must have something in his legal arsenal beyond two antithetical versions of the sex act.

For now, Bryant has shown himself to be as weak as a good portion of the male population, which is between Bryant and his wife, plus 283 million Americans.

The truth, however it comes to be defined in this case, is liable to be unsatisfying to all the parties.

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