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Kobe and Vanessa Bryant in March. (Photo: Getty Images)
Today is #MambaDay, when Kobe Bryant takes his final jumpers as a Los Angeles Laker.
His NBA record is indisputable — with five championship rings to prove it. You don’t have to look far to read about his many career highlights. However, while Bryant’s made history professionally, he’s also left a lasting legacy in the world of celebrity gossip. Some of the 37-year-old superstar’s missteps — bricks, if you will — related to his personal life (specifically his marriage to wife Vanessa), and will forever remain in our hearts and minds.
The Cringeworthy Public Apology
We don’t have time to tally up all the cheating scandals that have unfolded through the years, and the public apologies that often follow — like Kristen Stewart’s desperate plea to Robert Pattinson or even “Love Gov” Eliot Spitzer’s resignation, with wife Silda by his side. But Kobe’s public apology to Vanessa — whom he started dating after he had gone pro and she was still a high school student — at a 2003 press conference held at Staples Center will go down in history as one of the most excruciating to watch.
It really was no laughing matter. The 24-year-old pro baller had been accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman at a Colorado hotel, but — with Vanessa by his side — he declared his innocence while admitting only to adultery.
“I love my wife with all my heart,” he said awkwardly, with his voice quivering and tears flowing, as she looked on clutching his hand. “[You’re] my backbone,” he said to her. “You’re a blessing. You’re a piece of my heart. You’re the air I breathe. And you’re the strongest person I know, and I’m so sorry for having to put you through this and having to put our family through this.”
It’s no surprise that celebrities today rarely go this route when apologizing. They do it with a simple statement issued by their publicist or carefully scripted interview. Kobe’s presser was just cringeworthy. And while the charges against him were eventually dropped and a civil suit was settled out of court, it would never be erased from our minds.
The Introduction of the “Apology Ring”
Part of Kobe’s plan to win back the love of his wife, with whom he has two daughters, included the purchase of a $4 million diamond ring, which he gifted her just three days after prosecutors announced he’d be charged with rape. The 8-carat purple diamond ring was dubbed the “apology ring” in the press and, despite the circumstances in which it was given to her, Mrs. Bryant proudly flaunted it everywhere, from the stands to the red carpet.
Nothing says I’m sorry like a $4 million sparkler. (Photo: Getty Images)
We’ll forever remember Kobe’s apology ring because it was the first time a bauble was so blatantly used as an “I’m sorry.” Others have since tried it: Soccer star David Beckham, for example, gave his wife Victoria a $1.8 million pink diamond a year later — around the time he was linked to a woman named Rebecca Loos. Dean McDermott employed the tactic more recently, gifting Tori Spelling a pricey ring after his cheating scandal. So, as crazy as it seems, it does have a history of success.
Their On-Off Divorce
Needless to say, Kobe and Vanessa’s relationship has been one with many ups and downs and by December 2011 it looked like it was over for good. She filed for divorce from the basketball star citing “irreconcilable differences,” and they were in the process of splitting up their assets. But faster than you can say, “They didn’t have a prenup,” they called it off in January 2013, both posting messages on social media that they would remain the Bryants.
Vanessa watching her man in action in January. (Photo: Getty Images)
Now with Kobe retiring, is it bad to say we’re nervous for them now that they’ll have so much time together? Hey, whatever happens, we’re sure it won’t be something that diamonds can’t fix.