Kobe Bryant’s Redemption

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Redemption is a story told by the redeemed and the redeemer.

~ Me, 1/26/20

Kobe Bryant died today. Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and 7 other people died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California today.

To say the sports world is in shock would be an understatement. The world has been stunned by the news of his death.

Kobe Bryant was an immense presence when he was on the court. Mamba mentality. Killer instinct. The desire to succeed and win. All were evident when watching Bryant play.

One name is all you needed to hear.



Kobe Bryant was a legend on the basketball court. He was a star among stars. Despite the presence of larger-than-life teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe was must see either on tv or in person.

Many emotions have been triggered by Bryant’s death today. Sadness, anger, remorse, grief, distress, shock and agony.

Mourners weren’t just here in the United States. The pain was felt across the world.

Texting with my oldest son today, he said everyone in his workplace just stopped. Not many in the store were sports fans, he said, but they knew Kobe. The volume on the televisions was turned up and the quiet was palpable.

Few times has this happened in my lifetime – where people and things stop. Fewer still when a collective mourning occurs across the world. Princess Diana comes to mind. Maybe Michael Jackson too. Both transcended their positions, status or roles on this earth.

They were worldwide icons. Kobe was a worldwide icon too.

But, icons do have their flaws.


In 2003, Kobe Bryant was arrested for sexual assault in Colorado. The case never went to court. According to authorities, there was contamination with key DNA evidence, an important component in trials of he said/she said back then. The young woman elected not to proceed with the trial.

In 2003, Bryant said in a statement:

“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.”

He apologized to his wife publicly and watched his popularity and sponsorships plummet. A civil case was settled in 2005.

Still, in an age before #MeToo, the damage was already done to his reputation. Then again, that was 2003.

Today is January 26, 2020. Seventeen years later, people are remembering the family man, the business man, the philanthropist and the basketball player.

Few are mentioning 2003. But, it is a part of Bryant’s legacy.

In a 2018 Washington Post article, “Creating an alternate persona, he says now, was the only way he could mentally move beyond the events of Colorado.”

He moved beyond Colorado and took the world right along with him.

Colorado changed Kobe Bryant. And, while he figured it out on the court and with his family, the pre-social media world didn’t necessarily forget. They just had less ways to voice their frustrations and displeasure at any success Bryant had.

Today, there are more.


Who defines redemption? What does redemption look like to you?

Is it success? Is it the ever elusive happiness? Does tv or social media define it by what is shared? How can we tell if someone has been redeemed?

A fall from grace in today’s world is hardly redeemable according to social media. Once you’ve been labeled as a “-ist” in any measure, social media makes it stick.

But, what of those like Kobe Bryant? If what happened in Colorado happened today, many in sports media wouldn’t be as willing to sing his praises.

Kobe was charismatic, engaging, pro-active on some social issues and open to change. All qualities that sports media love. 2003 was a long time ago. People change, they say. People grow, they say.

He has seemingly been forgiven by sports media, players and fans across the world. There are a few, however, who don’t forget. There are a few who still see him for who he was in 2003.

Today’s #MeToo movement doesn’t allow for redemption. Why would it? Sexual crimes are life changing to their victims. With time, the memories may fade some, but they will always be with them.

Time heals all wounds? Not for all victims, no. But, for the perpetrators/suspects/accused/criminals, time can heal their past if approached wisely.

By all accounts, Kobe was redeemed. Outside looking in, he was a devoted husband and father. Bryant was coach of his daughter, Gianna’s, team. The two were on their way to a basketball event when their helicopter crashed.

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He was successful in business. He was doing good for others. TV appearances. Awards. A future Hall of Fame induction. The adoration of millions.

Today, the millions mourn.


Was Kobe Bryant redeemed from his 2003 fall from grace? If Kobe is considered redeemed, will Michael Vick ever be redeemed?

Who decides who is redeemed and who isn’t? Who decides who is worthy of forgiveness and forgetfulness – two very different things, by the way?

We are all in need of forgiveness at various times in our lives. No one upon this earth can escape offending or hurting someone at some point. It’s part of our humanity, as is rebuilding trust, making amends.

Redemption is a story told by the redeemed and the redeemer.

Kobe Bryant took his story back from Colorado. He told it and the forgiving public listened. Redemption and the public mourns.

Right or wrong? I don’t know. Bryant’s is a legacy that is both simple and complicated. That’s why it raises the question of redemption and who decides it.

I know that I have needed forgiveness many times. I’ve needed forgiveness from God, family, friends and others. I have needed redemption or had to rebuild trust in many ways.

No one else can write my story. I know what I have had to overcome and still have yet to do.

Who decides my redemption?

Who will decide yours?



Prayers of comfort to the families of those killed in today’s crash.

Posted by Sunny Cadwallader

CadChica Sports - Because there's more to the story than what's black-and-white

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