Barkley made his remarks as part of a group discussion featuring Barkley’s Inside the NBA co-stars, TNT announcer Ernie Johnson and former NBA players Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal. The issue has recently been at the forefront of discussions since the Jan. 26 crash that took Bryant and eight other lives.
Interviewer Gayle King has been condemned by many for her interview with Lisa Leslie that raised the Bryant Colorado incident. Her questions angered Snoop Dogg, among others, and he lashed out with threats before apologizing.
“You have to tell the picture in totality,’ Barkley said. “We’re not making Kobe out to be no hero. We’re celebrating his basketball excellence. We understand what happened in Colorado. That’s fair, but two things can be true.”
He later added: “Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players ever. And he had a flaw that we all know about.”
Ironically, Barkley himself was once condemned for his statement that he didn’t want to be a role model.
In Colorado, Bryant was accused of sexual assault by a 19-year-old female hotel employee. The accuser refused to testify in a trial, resulting in the charges being dropped. The two settled a civil lawsuit and Bryant issued a public apology, acknowledging that the woman did not consider the incident consensual, as he claimed.
The public memorial service for Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, will be held Feb. 24 at Staples Center.