NEWSWEEK COVER: 'The Kobe Bryant You Don't Know'
Exclusive: People Close to Bryant Describe What They Believe Happened in Hotel
Room; Friend of the Accuser Tells Conflicting Story
Sources Say in March Bryant Was in Contact With Divorce Lawyer; Wife Vanessa
Rushed to Hospital When She Learned of the Meeting
"I Would Never Get Into Trouble Like Mike Tyson," Bryant Once Said;
Friend Says Kobe Is 'Holding Up Well'
NEW YORK, Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Several people close and sympathetic to basketball player Kobe Bryant gave Newsweek a detailed account of what they believe happened the night of June 30 that led to him being charged with raping a 19-year-old concierge at the posh Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in Edwards, Colo. In the October 13 cover story: "The Kobe Bryant You Don't Know," (on newsstands Monday, October 6), National Correspondent Allison Samuels goes behind the ball player's image and examines his troubled road to a rape charge. (Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20031005/NYSU003 ) Samuels reports that sources close to Bryant say he first met the blonde, girlish-looking concierge when he checked into the hotel, where he planned to recuperate from knee surgery. The two began flirting almost immediately, and the woman gave him a personal tour of the grounds, including the gym and sauna. Later, Bryant called the front desk to order some food, and the woman delivered it to his room. Bryant called again to complain that his whirlpool bath wasn't working; the young woman offered to check out the problem herself, and Bryant invited her to come back to his room when she was off work. She returned, and the two embarked on a consensual sexual encounter. But early on in the encounter, Bryant became anxious that he wasn't using a condom, afraid that he might get the young woman pregnant, according to the sources close to Bryant. At some point, she started yelling for him to stop -- which he did, the sources say -- but she kept crying hysterically and was insistent on leaving. Bryant started to panic and tried to keep her from leaving until she calmed down, the sources say. He attempted to put ice on her eyes, which were swollen with tears, and pleaded with her to stay and talk. But she insisted that she had to go back to the concierge desk. Bryant asked her to return, and she told him she would. She never did. The next thing he knew, the county sheriff was asking him to go to a local hospital and provide a DNA sample. A friend of the accuser tells a very different story. This friend, who requests anonymity, tells Newsweek she had spoken with the accuser and the accuser's ex-boyfriend. According to the friend, [the accuser] was "attacked as soon as she [the accuser] walked through the door." There was "aggressive groping with no warning," the friend says, "followed by sex." Whatever happened between Bryant and his accuser the night before his surgery, he clearly didn't think it would have the consequences it did, Newsweek reports. The next day, Bryant played checkers in the lobby with his bodyguards, and he was on time for his surgery appointment the next morning. After Bryant had returned to the hotel, still foggy from sedatives, police contacted him and requested that he provide a DNA sample at an area hospital. Accompanied by his bodyguards, but no lawyer, Bryant began rattling off random bits of information to police, including, oddly, memories from his childhood in Italy, people close to Bryant say. The prosecution is expected to introduce photographs showing injuries the 6-foot-6 athlete allegedly inflicted on the young woman, which people familiar with the case say include bruises on the neck and vaginal tearing. District Attorney Mark Hurlbert has said he expects to spend $45,500 on expert witnesses, including specialists on strangulation, sexual assault and trauma. The prosecution may also introduce a videotaped statement from the accuser and an audiotape of statements Bryant made to Colorado authorities the day after the incident. Family and friends say Bryant has been so focused on his career on court, and so sheltered from social development off it, that he may not have picked up some necessary tools in his journey from boy to man. "It was clear that Kobe just didn't understand the way things work on a team," says a former Laker. "He came in wanting to shine from the very beginning. He didn't go to the older guys like most younger guys usually do. They wait and learn from everyone else." After games on the road, instead of hanging out with the team, he would sit in his room and watch videos. Sometimes it was "Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," which his mother would slip into his bag when she packed it for away games. But he would also catch movies his parents never let him see at home, R-rated stuff like "Scarface" and "The Godfather." "They had kept him from anything negative, violent and overly sexual," says Rebecca Tonahill, who became friendly with Bryant during his rookie year. "They thought they were doing him a favor, but they really weren't. He needed to know these things, if just for a reference point when hanging with the boys." "Kobe is the kind of guy who has to learn the same lesson again every season," says a former teammate. Bryant's ball-hogging and headstrong play grated on captain Shaquille O'Neal so much that at one practice he finally let loose and knocked Bryant to the floor. The two went at it and had to be broken up. "I think he really thought he could take Shaq," a player who witnessed the incident says, laughing. "I have to give him that: he has no fear of anything." "I would never get into trouble like Mike Tyson," Bryant once declared to some fellow Lakers. In fact, Kobe may have missed out on some valuable career advice. NBA players, like rock stars, have lots of groupies, and it isn't unusual to find plenty of action after the game. But there are also rules of conduct off the court, and players usually swap the do's and don'ts over dinner after a game. Rule No. 1: Let your crew approach the woman first, to size her up. One baller makes his bodyguards spell out in plain language to potential one-night-stands what the night's activities will entail. If she hesitates, she's turned away. Rule No. 2: Give nice parting gifts. One NBA star is known to travel with a treasure chest of diamond tennis bracelets to hand conquests in appreciation. Not that Bryant needed tennis bracelets back then. After things fizzled with singer Brandy, who he dated for a time, he developed crushes on several other black starlets, from supermodel Tyra Banks to Destiny's Child members Kelly Rowland and Beyonce Knowles. He even sent roses to Venus Williams when she won her first Wimbledon championship. But there were no real sparks. "He would get frisky with me and wanted to go all the way, but he knew what 'no' meant," says one of the stars he dated. "He understood it clearly. I can't see him now not knowing the difference." When Bryant fell for 16-year-old Vanessa Laine, his family was disappointed and his teammates didn't know what to make of her either. "We all knew he got so attached to her because he needed a friend, someone to hang out with," says a fellow Laker. "I'm not sure if it was love, or he was just happy that someone accepted him with no complaints. He didn't understand that she was a kid and she was in awe of him." When Tonahill asked Kobe what he saw in the 16-year-old, he responded, "She's pure, and innocent, and not jaded by the world." When Kobe proposed to Vanessa with a seven-carat diamond engagement ring and announced that she would be moving into his Pacific Palisades mansion, the family exploded, a person close to the situation said. They pointed out to him that Vanessa and her mother were spending a great deal of Kobe's money on Rodeo Drive, and that the Laine family was in tough financial straits. They pleaded with Kobe to take it slow, or at the very least to get a solid prenuptial agreement. It was a dicey subject to broach, given that Kobe's father, sisters and brother-in-law were all working for him in various capacities. Angered and insulted, Bryant withdrew. "He was so torn by that situation, so upset about the directions he was being pulled," said Tonahill. It wasn't just his family who disapproved of the marriage. Laker coach Phil Jackson encouraged him to hold off for a few years. Reportedly, Michael Jordan and a couple of other athletes made calls to Bryant suggesting that he take it slow, or at least get a prenup. "He just said, 'I can make the money back,'" says a player who tried to advise him. "He was like, 'She can have it, because I'm young and I don't see it ending like that way anyway.'" His agent, Arn Tellum, was so frustrated by Bryant's refusal to get a prenuptial agreement that he stopped representing him. The summer that he and Vanessa announced they would be having a baby, Bryant began loosening up, thanks to the influence of three bodyguards he'd hired in 2001. As he distanced himself from his family, the bodyguards became the posse he'd never had. They encouraged him to go bungee jumping, to drink and to hang out. In short, to be the playa he'd never been, Newsweek reports. When Natalia was born last January, Bryant seemed to be at the top of his game both professionally and personally. But things didn't sound heavenly at home. Vanessa hadn't attended a game since late fall; everyone assumed it was just because of the baby. Bryant's teammates noticed him interacting more with women on the road, but thought nothing of it, given his choirboy reputation. In fact, Bryant had been drifting away from his wife for some time, friends say. By March, Newsweek has learned, Bryant was in contact with a divorce lawyer. When Vanessa learned about the meeting, people close to Bryant say, she had to be rushed to the hospital. Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach confirms only that an "adult woman" was brought to the hospital by ambulance from the Bryants' home in Newport Beach and was placed on advanced life support. Paramedics say there were only three people at the Bryant home. The "adult woman" was taken to the hospital and treated. Paramedics say they saw no evidence of a crime. With a preliminary hearing set for Thursday a friend of Bryant's says he's doing fine. "I've spoken with Kobe several times since this happened," says his friend, Steve Stoute, a former music executive he met during his second season. "He's holding up well. He's a strong guy with confidence in himself and the character not to let this bring him down. He has a focus that's amazing, and he's able to weather anything without it affecting his performance." (Read Newsweek's news releases at www.Newsweek.MSNBC.com. Click "Pressroom.")
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