WNBA champion, Olympic gold medalist and Kobe Bryant’s longtime friend Lisa Leslie sat down with Gayle King for a “CBS This Morning” interview on Tuesday (Feb. 4) about Bryant’s legacy and lasting impact on women’s basketball.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash along with six other passengers and one pilot on Jan. 26.
“Sorrow has been awaked in my life, in [Bryant’s family’s] lives, in the world’s lives,” Leslie reflected on the tragedy.
Leslie explained how Bryant was an active proponent of the WNBA and was changing the way women’s basketball was perceived.
“He was really making change… changing the mindsets of other men, more than anybody else,” she told King. “He was validating us, these young ladies who were out there playing. The fact that he’s enjoying and being entertained by great basketball, it made other men feel—I’m hoping—like, ‘What is this about? It’s good.’”
Leslie also reflected on Gianna’s basketball talent and how proud Bryant was of her skills.
“I remember seeing him, like, “Lis, she got it,” she said. “We know what Kobe’s accomplished, but GiGi didn’t have the full opportunity to do that. ‘Cause you just know that she had the mentality. Mambacita was gonna make it, she was gonna be in the WNBA.”
King then asked Leslie if Bryant’s 2003 rape accusation “complicated” his legacy.
“It’s not complicated for me at all,” Leslie replied. “Even if there was a few times we’ve been at a club at the same time, Kobe’s not the kind of guy, never been like, ‘Lis go get that girl,’ ‘tell her [this]’ or ‘send her this.’ I have other NBA friends that are like that. Kobe was never like that.”
At the time, a Colorado hotel employee had accused Bryant of sexual assault. However, the case was later dismissed because the alleged victim refused to testify in court.
“I think that the media should be more respectful at this time,” Leslie continued. “I just have never seen him being the kind of person that would do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way. It’s just not the person that I know… I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy—and I think that that’s how we should leave it.”
The interview subsequently went viral on social media, with some Twitter users criticizing King for bringing up the rape allegation so soon after Bryant’s death, while others praised Leslie’s responses.
See the full CBS clip and find some Twitter reactions below.