You probably wouldn’t rank this at the top of his off-court scandals. Karl Malone was the first one to openly voice skepticism when Magic Johnson came back to play, concerned about his HIV. He also has a child that he fathered as a 20-year-old college student with a 13-year-old girl.
Still, Karl managed to ruin his relationship with Kobe and seal his Lakers faith. Malone and Bryant developed a good relationship while Karl was playing for the Lakers at the end of his career. They spent time together privately and the families grew close. It all changed when Malone made a comment towards Kobe’s wife Vanessa that made her so uncomfortable she talked to Kobe about it.
The story goes like this: Malone was wearing cowboy boots and a hat, not uncommon for him. Vanessa Bryant saw him and asked “What are you hunting?” referring to the outfit. Malone replied, “I’m hunting for little Mexican girls.” Before marrying Kobe, Vanessa Bryant was Vanessa Cornejo Urbieta. Kobe wasn’t happy. (via ESPN)
“The comments that [Malone] said, I don’t know any man in this room that wouldn’t be upset about that. The past month, myself, my wife, [Malone’s wife] Kay, we’ve had fun together. We’ve been out to their house, just joking around, giving each other a hard time, just clowning, being sarcastic with one another, baby-sitting kids and all that.”
Kobe dismissed the possibility of a misunderstanding saying that if his wife felt so uncomfortable she told him and called Malone’s wife to talk about it, he must’ve crossed a line. It turned out this wasn’t the first time Karl made comments towards Vanessa Bryant, according to her. When Vanessa shared all the details with Kobe, he called Malone to clear the air.
“Kobe told me that Karl just listened and didn’t deny any of it. Kobe said Karl’s only reply was, ‘You know me, man.’ To which Kobe told him, ‘That’s right, I do know you — and stay away from my wife,’ ” said Pelinka. “The next day, with all four of them on the phone, Karl denied it. At that point the Bryants knew that there was nothing left to talk about since they knew Karl wasn’t telling the truth. Vanessa told me that she told Kay that she [Vanessa] wanted her [Kay] to know ‘just exactly what your husband [Karl] did, and you do what you want with the information.’ “
The way all of this made it to the media, and knowing what we know now about Rob “Storyteller” Pelinka, it does seems a bit much. Still, this wasn’t the first or the last time teammates or just players in the league had issues over a wife/girlfriend.
Just ask Matt Barnes about that.