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.
I didn't find gayle's questions unfair and I found some of lisa's answers problematic but it felt very ambush like to me and prodding by gayle for a headline. Lisa was graceful to me bc if I was someone's good friend that died, idk if I would have responded like she did.— Afia (@afiaonfiyah) February 5, 2020
Gayle King really tryna push that sex offender narrative on Kobe while he is no longer here to defend himself? Lol she and Oprah will NEVER pass up the opportunity to tarnish a black man's name... Why the fuck she ain't interviewing ppl about Harvey Weinstein? Lol— Pragmatist (@thewinneriskost) February 5, 2020
Gayle King will not take a day off from her black man hate campaign. She had 17 years to question this accusation but waits like a coward for him to die to remind the world that black men are not to be loved. If she cares so much then go after the current president & Harvey.— Cointel Bro (@cointel__bro) February 5, 2020
MUCH LUV & RESPECT goes to @WNBA LEGEND QUEEN lisaleslie for your AMAZING support of @kobebryant Waking up to this interview and was just really pissed off! LIKE YO! I realize folks gotta do they job but this is… https://t.co/2HpcQTJZ0B— Vivica A. Fox (@MsVivicaFox) February 5, 2020
We rarely get to hear from Lisa Leslie- a living legend in her own right. I don’t understand the need to weaponize her gender, in this moment, when we’re all collectively mourning the loss of Kobe. I find it woefully unnecessary https://t.co/1vLdFJoBEe— Clyve “CarbonClyve” Monroe (@clyveSPEAKS) February 5, 2020
very impressed with how my goal model @LisaLeslie handled a really tough situation... like the true legend she is.— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) February 5, 2020
another example of women having to be on the frontlines of such matters... that is the burden we continually bear. https://t.co/RvaY7rUHoW