January 7: Bryant leads all scorers with 27 in a Laker
loss at Denver. He is booed loudly every time he touches the ball.
January 14: Bryant’s attorneys claim that the accuser had
sex with someone else less than 18 hours after her alleged assault and argue
that both the woman’s prior and subsequent sexual conduct should be admissible
January 23: Bryant’s attorney, Pamela Mackey, plays the
race card in court, saying, “There is lots of history out there about men,
black men, being falsely accused of this crime by white women.” Bryant’s
alleged 19-year-old victim, a 2002 graduate of Eagle Valley High School, is
January 29: Fans select Kobe Bryant as an All-Star Game
starter. Despite all the negative publicity, as well as McDonald’s, Sprite and
Nutella all severing their endorsement ties with him, Bryant’s No. 8 Lakers
jersey is still a top seller.
March 24: Bryant’s accuser spends more than three hours
testifying behind closed doors. This is the first time she has faced Bryant
since the alleged incident. Bryant again flies back to Los Angeles for a game
against the Sacramento Kings. He is 11 for 23 and scores 36 points.
April 28: Bryant makes it back in time for Game 5 of the
first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. He scores 31 points,
and the Lakers advance to Round 2 against their rivals, the San Antonio Spurs.
May 11: Bryant pleads not guilty to a single felony assault
charge. That evening, after a long day in court and a flight back to Los Angeles,
he hits 15 of 27 field goals, makes 10 of 13 foul shots and adds 6 rebounds
and 5 assists for 42 points total in a 98-90 Game 4 victory over the Spurs.
“It’s very draining,” says Bryant after the victory. “It feels
good to step out on that basketball court, get up and down, compete. It is kind
of like a psychiatrist, it takes your mind away from so many things.”
June 15: The underdog Detroit Pistons finish off the Lakers
in five games with a 100-87 victory. Bryant scores 24 points.
Late June, early July: In the last of many gaffes, court
reporter Michelle Goodbee mistakenly sends a 206-page transcript of a closed-door
hearing to seven news organizations covering the sexual-assault case. The transcript
includes key testimony from a defense witness, forensic consultant Dr. Elizabeth
Johnson, concerning the alleged victim’s vaginal injuries.
The prosecution attributes the alleged victim’s vaginal injuries
to forced penetration by Bryant, with the defense arguing they were the result
of the alleged victim having multiple sexual partners in a three-day period.
Judge Terry Ruckriegle orders all media organizations to destroy the transcripts,
but the seven news organizations sue for the right to publish the document,
setting off a tense and protracted legal battle.
Late June, early July: The Lakers front office decides
not to bring back coach Phil Jackson for a sixth season. In order to test the
free-agent market, Bryant opts out from the final year of his contract. After
G.M. Mitch Kupchak says that Bryant is the future of the team, Shaquille O’Neal
requests an immediate trade.
Mid-July: Bryant rejects the Los Angeles Clippers’ six-year,
$100-million offer and re-signs with the Lakers for $136.4 million. This comes
a day after the Lakers trade Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom,
Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a future first-round pick. The Lakers also sign
former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich as the new head coach.
August 3: Sports Illustrated reports that the prosecution
may try to show a pattern of bad behavior by Bryant with information about another
woman who claimed that Bryant fondled her during a Thanksgiving party at Shaquille
O’Neal’s Orlando home in 2002. This leaves open the possibility — dreaded by
the defense — that O’Neal would be called to testify at Bryant’s trial.
August 10: Bryant’s accuser files a civil suit in Denver
seeking monetary damages for emotional and physical pain caused by Bryant. Some
legal experts assert this could allow Bryant’s defense team to claim in the
upcoming criminal trial that her motives are purely financial. The prosecution
is aghast and asks Judge Ruckriegle the same day to delay Bryant’s criminal
trial indefinitely. Ruckriegle denies the claim.
August 27: A weeklong jury selection for the criminal trial
September 1: Saying the alleged victim is “unable
to go forward,” the prosecution, after 14 months and $400,000, drops the
criminal case against Bryant just days before the trail is set to start. Judge
Terry Ruckriegle throws out the case with prejudice, meaning no charges can
be refiled. Bryant offers an apology to the accuser: “Although I truly
believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did
not and does not view this incident the same way I did, I now understand how
she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
November 23: The Lakers host the Milwaukee Bucks at Staples
Center. Both Vanessa Bryant and Karl Malone attend the game. Wearing a large
cowboy hat, Malone makes his way to Bryant’s box, where she asks him, “Hey,
cowboy, what are you hunting?” Malone’s reply: “I’m hunting for little
Mexican girls.” Bryant very publicly accuses Malone of coming on to his
wife, which sets off a series of accusations and recriminations. Malone claims
he is caught in the middle of the Bryants’ marriage woes and very soon after
decides not to play the second half of this season with the Lakers.
December 1: The Kobe Bryant–led Lakers are defeated by
the last-place Chicago Bulls, and are 9-7 and 4½ games behind the first-place
Phoenix Suns. Sports pundits say that Bryant needs to pass the ball more.