"I made the mistake of adultery. I have to answer to my wife and my God for my actions that night and I pray that both will forgive me. Nothing that happened June 30th was against the will of the woman who now falsely accuses me."
-- Kobe Bryant in a prepared statement Friday afternoon.
"How big a news story is this? Well, considering 'adultery' and 'false witness' are both in the Ten Commandments, you might call it a story of biblical proportions."
-- Mitch Albom in the Detroit Free-Press Saturday morning.
Well, perhaps not biblical, but the announcement Friday that Kobe Bryant is being charged with felony sexual assault certainly brought forth an extraordinary flood of newspaper commentary for a Saturday morning. In normal times, the heavyweight columnists wait until Sunday to pontificate.
"Last week Bryant told the Los Angeles Times, 'You know me. You know I'd never do anything like that.' And we want to believe him, because to our knowledge Kobe Bryant hasn't ever done anything like that. He hasn't done anything more scandalous than occasionally take too many shots and not get Shaq enough shots. Kobe is just about the most likable young man in the NBA."
-- Tony Kornheiser / Washington Post
"We don't know Kobe Bryant. He can call us back, but we don't know him. He can give us neater sound bites than Ronald Reagan, but we don't know him. He can participate in Read-to-Achieve and he can sell us space-age basketball shoes and he can look stricken on a Friday afternoon podium, his fingers entwined with those of wife Vanessa, but we have no idea who Kobe Bryant is."
-- Mark Whicker / Orange County Register
"The Kobe Bryant I'm acquainted with wouldn't kick a dog, much less rape a woman. The Kobe Bryant I know glows when he talks about his wife, takes seriously his responsibility as a role model, rubs people the right way and is straighter than the free throw line. Which just goes to show how much I know."
-- Karen Crouse / Palm Beach Post
"Fact is, even in the face of the accusation by the young woman that he assaulted her last month, most people want Bryant to be the Bryant into which they invested all their hero worship. They don't want him to be guilty, because that would remind them that we don't know athletes any more than we know politicians, actors or the new auto mechanic in town."
-- Ray Ratto / San Francisco Chronicle
"Bryant became a national favorite with a combination of good looks and spectacular basketball ability, and you probably have to make him a favorite in Eagle County, too. The Kobe defense team already includes Hal Haddon, who represented John and Patsy Ramsey, and Pamela Mackey, who represented Patrick Roy. You half expect to see Johnnie Cochran at the defense table, too, fresh from his win for Pete Rose in ESPN moot court."
-- Dave Krieger / Rocky Mountain News
"Whatever answering Bryant has already done with his wife must have been enough for him to get a date with her Wednesday night. The camera moved through the ESPY Awards audience and there was the smiling Kobe Bryant and there was the smiling Mrs. Bryant next to him. And trust me, this was no accident, even though Bryant and his attorneys had to have some idea by Wednesday that these charges were coming. This was about public relations, and show, Wednesday night."
-- Mike Lupica / New York Daily News
"His new image is framed by a mug shot. His future home could be a prison. His once-golden life already has become a distant memory. No, the Class 3 felony sexual assault can be wrapped in the legal language of the state penal code, massaged and manipulated by defense lawyers and loyal friends and family members, but the outcome is already inscribed in big, bold, black and white letters: the All-Star guard with the impeccable persona and million-dollar endorsements is a flawed human being at best, a criminal at worst."
-- Ailene Voisin / Sacramento Bee
"All we can say is that 'no' is supposed to mean 'no,' and any man who forces himself on a woman after she tells him 'no' is no longer just plain stupid. He is a criminal. A man must be very certain that what takes place between himself and a woman is consensual. Explaining yourself to a wife or Significant Other is hard enough, but explaining yourself to someone such as [Eagle County DA] Mark Hurlbert is something else."
-- Bob Ryan / Boston Globe
"Whatever occurred between Bryant and a 19-year old woman from Colorado on June 30 -- whether it was rape or consensual sex -- he is the one who put his career, team, family and image on the line by placing his libido ahead of the risk. If Bryant had been savvier, he would have discovered what several NBA veterans have said privately over the years: a professional stripper has no strings attached; a relative stranger is the greater danger. In other words, pay up front, not later."
-- Selena Roberts / New York Times
"So I'm going to be dead honest here. I was uncomfortable with the packaging by Team Kobe on Friday. It was too neat. It was too tidy. It was too prepared."
-- Jeff Jacobs / Hartford Courant
"Turning to Vanessa, he said, 'You're a blessing. You're a piece of my heart. You're the strongest person I know. I'm so sorry for having to put you through this.' While it sounded like a Hallmark card, it more closely resembled a life preserver."
-- Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times