Don’t Judge Kobe’s Family Money Drama

The basketball great could teach other athletes plenty about setting boundaries with family.

(The Root) — There’s a lot not to like about Kobe Bryant. For one, no matter what he does, he manages to come across as smug and arrogant, something that has been a complaint of fellow players and fans alike.

Then there’s the small detail of being accused of rape. Those charges were eventually dropped, but he ended up having to plead guilty to an unofficial crime (in the eyes of some) of cheating on his wife, which some members of the public treat as even more unforgivable. But now people seem to have found another reason to pile on Bryant, and I find myself in a position I never thought I would: defending him.

Bryant recently had his lawyers intervene to prevent his mother from auctioning off belongings from his early days as a young player. It didn’t take long before the rumor mill was abuzz that this dispute is not really over his memorabilia.

It never is.

According to reports, the real dispute allegedly stems from Bryant the younger’s willingness to provide a house for his mother, but not a house as expensive as the one she expressed interest in. Further complicating matters, allegedly, is that his in-laws, who are Latino, are said to be enjoying more luxurious accommodations.

Now, I don’t know Bryant or his mother, so I don’t know how true any of this is. What I do know is that he is being pilloried online by black Americans based purely on these rumors. A headline on one site with a predominantly black audience read, “Shady Kobe Bryant Keeps His Parents Living the Struggle While He and His Mexican In-Laws Ball Outrageous!” A sampling of the comments include these:     

“He is one sick disgusting uncle tom buffoon!”

“Yep, typical Koon asz black male. Got the Mexicans living lavish and the woman who carried him and raised him can’t get a nice crib.”

Yet what seems to have gotten lost amid all this speculation (besides the obvious, which is that it’s not really any of our business) is that it’s his money. He earned it, and he should be able to give it or not to whomever he pleases, however much he pleases.

So why am I sticking my nose in this when I just said it’s none of our business? Because the Bryant family saga is a high-profile symbol of a chronic illness that is crippling our community: Black Americans from all walks of life are struggling to set healthy financial boundaries with relatives. It’s one of the reasons we see so many black athletes and entertainers go broke, but they are not the only ones who need these boundaries.  

Many black Americans “make it” and believe that everyone they grew up with needs to enjoy the good life with them.