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“You just felt like he was on edge.” — how the Colorado incident changed Kobe Bryant's attitude towards the public

Privacy became such a priority that even Kobe's bodyguards started using aliases.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant at press conference to discuss sexual assault allegations

Kobe Bryant

The 2003 sexual assault allegation in Colorado is one of the darkest chapters of Kobe Bryant’s life. From being on top of the world having just won three NBA titles, almost everything came crumbling down for Kobe. People’s perception of Bryant wasn’t the only thing that changed. Kobe’s attitude to strangers transformed as well. So much so that he had to put his guard up, especially to people from the media.

Bodyguards had aliases

In the book “Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant” by Roland Lazenby, journalist Ric Bucher related how he saw Bryant change after the Colorado episode. Bucher recalled he would hang out at Bryant’s hotel room before games, where they would chat and chill. Bucher’s easy access to Kobe was scrapped after the drama in Colorado. He now had to go through multiple layers of security before seeing the Lakers guard.

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“Before, Bryant had used a password to allow approved callers access to his hotel phone line. After Colorado, Bucher found that even Bryant’s bodyguards now had aliases. He had to contact them first in hopes of trying to get through to Bryant,”

Roland Lazenby, Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant

Once Bucher finally reached Kobe, he noticed that a carefree conversation was a thing of the past. Two guards were in the same room as them. Bucher could no longer hang out for as long as he wanted. Bryant was no longer his cordial self.

Kobe’s guard was way up

A guy had to walk me up to his room,” Bucher recalled, adding that two security guards stood in Bryant’s room the whole time they conversed. “We talked for, like, twenty minutes. He sat on the couch. I sat across from him, and it was, like, high tension. You just felt like he was on edge. I knew it didn’t have anything to do with me personally, but it felt like he was that way with everybody. He put everybody at arm’s length. It was hard to get a hold of him, it was hard to talk to him. It was hard to get his opinion or thought on anything. He was more guarded than he’d ever been.

Bryant kept his guard up not just with the media but also everywhere he went. Upon arrival at Caron Butler’s family home for dinner, Bryant told everyone to get out of the house for a security check. Butler was weirded out since it’s his residence after all. But he knew it was a necessity, given what Bryant had just gone through. He knew the Lakers icon was playing it safe.

The Colorado incident definitely changed how Bryant dealt with the public as a basketball star. Only at the end of his career did we see the old Bryant return - open, and willing to share his basketball wisdom and experience. 

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