Kobe Bryant Last Game: Rape Case Is Why He Changed Jersey Number From 8 To 24

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Today, the world collectively mourns their Kobe Bryant last game blues. Arguably an NBA legend in his own right, the Black Mamba will be hanging up his jersey for good as he plays his final game, a match between the L.A. Lakers and the Utah Jazz. His 20-year-long career may have had its fair share of highs and lows, littered by fans and haters alike, but what is perhaps the most infamous case against the NBA star was the 2003 rape scandal that almost destroyed his entire life.

From his wife filing for a divorce to his sudden change in his jersey number – which is unusual since NBA players stick with their trademark jersey number until the very end of their career – let’s revisit why Kobe’s rape case may have had an influence in his decision to switch from 8 to 24.

Basketball history tells a sordid tale of Kobe’s darkest moment. On July 1 2003, Kobe was accused of raping a 19-year-old concierge who worked at The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Colorado. He was there for a knee operation and post-recovery. The 19-year-old, technically a minor under United States jurisdiction, was invited back to Kobe’s room under the guise of facilitating a “private tour” of the area. Later that night, after the two engaged in mild flirting, Kobe’s bedroom doors opened and the girl in question shuffled out with a horrified look on her face, her underwear bloodied, and completely disheveled.

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After a bellboy’s mother filed a rape case against the superstar when the concierge shared to them what had happened, Kobe was promptly arrested on July 4, 2003. He then posted a $25,000 bond. This case also led to the uncovering of his extra-marital affair from wife Vanessa Bryant, which means that the issue with the 19-year-old concierge was wholly about consent.

Whether or not Bryant and the woman engaged in sexual activity that night is not in question — Bryant admitted to cheating on his wife, Vanessa. But the woman he claimed to have committed adultery with said she did not consent to that activity,” they wrote. 

But the drama didn’t stop there. Not only did Kobe make a public admission and apology to his wife about cheating on her, he resumed his basketball career that same year without any hitch from the law. He was even sensationalized even more, as per Fox Sport’s recollection of the news.

“Laker fans never booed Bryant during the season, indeed the first time he appeared on camera after the rape charges were filed, he was cheered wildly. Incredibly, Bryant’s jersey sales surged in the wake of his rape charges, climbing throughout the season as his trial date neared and more and more details leaked into the media.” 

Read More: Last Kobe Bryant Game Is Most Expensive Game In NBA Season – Cheapest Ticket Is $971

Radar Online speculated that despite the overwhelming support from his fans and followers, even to the point where he regained brand giants Nike, Spalding, and Coca-Cola as sponsors plus a $130M contract with the L.A. Lakers, he may have had his jersey number changed to signify that he desired a fresh start from the rape case. In 2006, he started wearing a jersey with the number 24 on it, after the woman who filed the case dropped charges since the victim did not move to testify against Kobe.

Perhaps the worst has passed for Kobe Bryant as he celebrates his legacy, eventually becoming the all time highest scorer in LA Lakers history. But for those who remember this tale to this day, justice was not truly served. Not only did he enjoy a massive surge in his jersey sales, plus hero worship from his existing fans, he walked away unscathed while the woman in question was framed as an attention-seeking victim who was fame-hungry and unstable.

On another note, Kobe Bryant’s divorce from his wife never pushed through despite Vanessa filing “irreconcilable differences” in 2011. They got back together in 2013.

What do you think of this tumultuous time in Kobe Bryant history? Were you a Lakers/Kobe fan during the height of his biggest scandal? Comment below and share with us your thoughts.

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About the author

AlexiC is a twenty-something super sanguine who views the world as a sitcom waiting to be written. She also enjoys drinking on Fridays, laughing out loud, singing at 3AM, reading novels, and writing about games, movies, TV shows, and Youtube personalities. Practices the fine art of ranting and voice acting on occasion.