Kobe Bryant r.a.p.e claim shouldn’t be a topic yet, it should have been one of the happiest times in Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa’s lives. After marrying in 2001, the couple welcomed their first daughter, Natalia, in January 2003.
The birth of their eldest child healed a rift between Kobe, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, and Vanessa and his parents, Joe and Pamela.
They refused to attend their son’s wedding to Vanessa, who was just 18 when they tied the knot, over his refusal to sign a prenup.
Joe and Pamela also feared their son, who himself was just 22, and his bride was too young to marry.
But that all changed when their grand-daughter arrived.
It was a happy time for the Bryant family but then their world fell apart when Kobe was accused of rape just a few months after the birth of his daughter.
The basketball star was booked in for knee surgery and had checked into a spa on June 30 a couple of days before his op.
He was staying in The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Eagle County in Colorado, the US when he met his alleged 19-year-old victim.
She worked at the hotel and when she showed Kobe to his room, he says he asked her to return later that night to give him a “private tour”.
The woman did return and she told police that they started kissing before she alleged that she had been raped.
When he was first arrested, Kobe insisted he had not had sex with the woman.
But when he was told the alleged victim had undergone a physical examination, he admitted they had had sex – but insisted it was consensual.
His accuser had bruises on her neck and Kobe admitted he had ‘strangled’ her and that this was his “thing”, although he stressed he had never done this to his wife, Vanessa.
There was also blood on the accuser’s underwear and on Kobe’s shirt and he confessed he hadn’t specifically asked her for consent.
Instead, Kobe told police he assumed it was consensual because they had been kissing and she had touched him intimately.
Two days after he was first questioned about the alleged r.a.p.e, Kobe flew back to Colorado from Los Angeles, where he was arrested.
Despite her husband’s open admission of adultery and the r.a.p.e accusation he was facing, Vanessa was by his side at a press conference when his arrest became public knowledge.
She had famously shied away from the limelight, even waiting in the tunnel to kiss her husband congratulations after every basketball game so she could stay out of the glare of photographers.
But the Bryant’s put on a united front – even after the swift and brutal fall-out of the claims.
While he was able to continue playing for the LA Lakers, the sportsman lost lucrative endorsement deals with McDonald’s and Nutella.
Kobe heaped praise on his wife in an emotionally charged press conference and apologized for cheating on her.
He said: “I sit here in front of you guys, furious at myself, disgusted at myself for making a mistake of adultery.
“I love my wife with all my heart, she’s my backbone.”
Vanessa held onto her husband’s hands tightly throughout the press conference.
At one point, her husband turned to her and said: “You’re a blessing, you’re the beat to my heart, you’re the air that I breathe and you’re the strongest person I know.
“I’m so sorry for having to put you through this and to put our family through this.
“I’m a human being, I’m a man just like everybody else.
“I mourn, I cry, just like everybody else and I sit here before you guys embarrassed and ashamed for committing adultery.”
Kobe also issued a public statement, apologizing to his wife for adultery.
Despite several preliminary hearings, the case never reached trial.
The alleged victim refused to testify. She had received a barrage of abuse after her name was leaked and even her parents’ home was surrounded by film crews.
After the case was dismissed, Kobe issued another statement where he apologized to the alleged victim.
He said: “First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident.
“I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences, she has suffered in the past year.
“Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure.
“I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado.
“I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman.
“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.
“After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
It was not the end of the matter and the woman filed a civil case against Bryant in 2004, which was settled in private the following year.
It seemed family life had returned to normal for Kobe and Vanessa, who welcomed their second daughter, Gianna, who was killed along with her father in Sunday’s helicopter crash.
But then their fans were rocked in 2011 when it was revealed Vanessa had filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
However, just months after their shock split, the couple seemed to be healing their differences.
In an interview at the time, Vanessa said: “We’re working on things.”
By 2013, Vanessa and Kobe had called off their divorce and went on to have two more daughters, Bianka, and Capri Kobe, who was born just seven months ago.
And she has always remained fiercely private but making sure she was always there for her husband and her girls.
Early in their marriage, Vanessa, who met Kobe when she was just 17, conquered her fear of flying so she could be at his side when he traveled back to his high school for his jersey retirement ceremony.
She has also shunned the trappings of wealth and doesn’t have a nanny or help her raise their children.
Vanessa said: “I think people imagine that I sit at home with all the time in the world to do my hair and make-up but that’s certainly not the case.
“I’m up at 6:30 in the morning with my kids. I’m taking them wherever they need to go.”
The mum-of-four also made sure she never missed a sports game or practice of any of her daughters.
And on his retirement, Kobe was excited about what the future would hold for him and Vanessa and their growing family.
In a poignant Instagram post, he wrote: “I’m so excited to see what God has in store for us as a family now that one chapter is closing and new ones are opening.”
Kobe and Gianna were killed along with seven others in Sunday’s tragedy.