Gayle King sparks backlash after asking Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant's 'complicated' legacy

Taryn Ryder
·6 min read

Leslie’s remarks about Bryant’s ‘complicated’ legacy begin at 3:55-mark in video above

Gayle King's interview with Lisa Leslie isn't going over well with some viewers. On CBS This Morning, King asked the WNBA legend about her friendship with Kobe Bryant. Leslie, 47, met the Los Angeles Lakers star when she was 18 and the two remained close until his death on Jan. 26. During their sit down, King asked Leslie about Bryant's "complicated" legacy.

"It's been said that his legacy is complicated, because of a sexual assault charge, which was dismissed in 2003, 2004," King said during the Tuesday interview. "Is it complicated for you, as a woman, as a WNBA player?"

Gayle King, Kobe Bryant, Lisa Leslie
Gayle King, Kobe Bryant and Lisa Leslie (Photo: Getty Images)

"It's not complicated for me at all," Leslie said. "Even if there's a few times that we've been at a club at the same time, Kobe's not the kind of guy, never been like, 'Lis, go get that girl, or tell her, or send her this.' I have other NBA friends that are like that. Kobe, he was never like that."

A 19-year-old hotel worker accused Bryant of sexual assault in 2003. Leslie said he is not "the kind of person that" would "do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way. That's just not the person that I know."

King pushed back, "But Lisa you wouldn't see it, though. As his friend, you wouldn't see it."

"And that's possible," Leslie replied. "I just don't believe that. And I'm not saying things didn't happen. I just don't believe that things [happened] with force.”

Charges against Bryant were dropped in 2004 and he publicly apologized to his 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," he said in a statement. They later settled in a sealed civil lawsuit.

"Is it even a fair question to talk about it, considering he's no longer with us and that it was resolved," King asked. "Or is it really part of his history?"

"I think that the media should be more respectful at this time," Leslie declared. "It's like, if you had questions about it, you've had many years to ask him that. I don't think it's something that we should keep hanging over his legacy. I mean, he went to — it went to trial."

"Yeah, but the case — it was dismissed because the victim in the case refused to testify, so it was dismissed," King stated.

"And I think that that's how we should leave it," Leslie maintained.

King received backlash for her questions, with 50 Cent and singer Ari Lennox weighing in. The journalist’s best friend, Oprah Winfrey, was also mentioned a lot given her involvement in a documentary about sexual misconduct allegations against Russell Simmons.

Leslie has been praised for how she handled herself, with Vivica A. Fox thanking the WNBA star for her "amazing support" of Bryant.

Leslie hasn’t weighed in further. In a statement to USA Today, King said,

"I understand why people are upset seeing that clip out of context. I hope they will now watch the entire wide-ranging interview. We asked a longtime friend of Kobe Bryant’s to talk to us about his legacy and their friendship and Lisa Leslie did exactly that."

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