- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2003

But here’s what I have learned after a visit to the nerve center of my neighborhood’s intelligence apparatus, the barbershop:

1.Mr. Bryant confessed in a news conference to committing the sin of adultery but denied committing the crime of rape. This confirms the sage wisdom I recently saw displayed outside a nearby church: “Forbidden fruit makes many jams.”

2.NBA stars have been treated like mini-gods since the sixth or seventh grade. This inevitably causes the same sense of arrested development and sexual entitlement that we often associate with rock stars, movie producers and Washington politicians.

3. At least some of Mr. Bryant’s potential jurors probably are asking themselves what former multi-color-haired Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman told talk show hosts: “What was she doing in his room? Kobe Bryant doesn’t have to rape anybody to have sex.”

4.Anyone who turns to Dennis Rodman for wisdom probably would believe that yellowcake uranium is a dessert treat.

5.The 19-year-old accuser faces a trial by media and gossip. Mr. Bryant’s defenders will portray her as an oversexed harlot who “asked for it,” even if she had gone to his room for a Bible reading.

6.Rape is not a crime of sex. It is a crime of violence and power. But that doesn’t fit Kobe Bryant’s reputation, either. Unlike O.J. Simpson, Mr. Bryant has no known history of violence against women. This would seem to work in his favor. He has the reputation, even among his randier teammates, of behaving like a choirboy who would rather go back to his hotel room and play video games than party heartily with women who are not his wife.

7. On the other hand, we think we know lots of media celebrities, but we really don’t. We know their media-filtered images. This usually means we know them as being basically nice, intelligent and mild-mannered, as we have known Kobe Bryant, or we know them as Mike Tyson, a caricature who frightens small children. In real life, those are both stereotypes. Real people are complicated. Even Mike Tyson apparently has an appreciation for abstract art, especially when it is tattooed across his face.

8.Question: How come problems like this never seem to happen in the Women’s NBA? Discuss.

9.It is now decision time for the companies whose products Mr. Bryant endorses to the tune of an estimated $11 million to $13 million this year alone. Most probably will wait for a guilty verdict before they would drop him. Some could wait longer. As a Chicago machine politician once said, “Every man is innocent until his case has gone through appeal.”

10.The lack of black population in the Colorado county where the trial may be held means Johnnie Cochran probably will not be joining Kobe Bryant’s defense team. If the lawyer don’t fit, the jury won’t acquit.

11.Instead, Mr. Bryant has hired Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon, two of Colorado’s most respected trial lawyers. Mr. Haddon represented John Ramsey during the still-unsolved murder of his daughter, JonBenet Ramsey. A trial is a contest to determine who has the best lawyer, an old saying goes. These days, it’s also a contest to see who can afford the best lawyering.

12.Mark D. Hurlbert, the prosecutor who will try Mr. Bryant, told the New York Times that he feels encouraged. He recently met the lawyer who successfully prosecuted the Kennedy family cousin Michael C. Skakel. If a Kennedy can be prosecuted successfully, despite the family money, so can an NBA star, Mr. Hurlbert figures. Mr. Hurlbert splits a budget of $2 million annually with 11 deputy district attorneys in four counties, the Times said. Mr. Bryant makes more than that in his sleep. At best, this is not sounding like an open-and-shut case.

13.Question: Do the behavioral problems of athletes get more attention during the slow news days of summer, when we media types are desperate for something provocative to jabber about? Or is it just my imagination? Discuss.

14. If things don’t go Mr. Bryant’s way, he stands to lose $150 million. He’s already put his reputation and his family’s future into jeopardy, by his own admission. All presumably for a moment of whoopee with a woman he did not know.

15. Life in the Bryant household is probably very quiet right about now. And tense.

Clarence Page is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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