[2/3/20] – Kobe’s Legacy

Shortly before the start of the Grammy’s this last Sunday a helicopter went down in Calabasas, California killing 9 people. Among the victims were Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, or Gigi, and her father Kobe. The Staples Center has hosted the Grammy’s since 2000, and is also home to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team Gianna’s father played for. He led his team to several NBA world championships, won many awards for his contributions to community and sport, and was generally heralded as one of the best basketball players of all time. In 2003, Kobe was gaining notoriety for something quite different basketball as it was alleged that he had raped a woman while awaiting surgery in a hotel in Colorado. Though never admitting guilt, Kobe settled a civil suit against him by the accuser for an undisclosed among and did offer a public apology to the victim. This week, we focus on the experiencing guilt for someone you’ve never met, cultural hegemony, social construction of sports, and the culture of rape in America.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Kobe’s Legacy

Learning Objectives

LO1: Understand how the many statuses an individual occupies can work together to influence cultural responses to their attitudes and behaviors.

LO2: Explain the relationship between hegemonic masculinity and the creation and perpetuation of rape culture in America.

LO3: Discuss how the media works to control the narrative and thus reaction to tragic events.


Why Kobe Bryant’s rape case “does need to be discussed” as part of his legacy

Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles at the age of 41. The crash killed all nine people on board, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Bryant won five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals and was crowned an All-Star 18 times. He played for the L.A. Lakers for 20 years before retiring in 2016. Tributes continue to pour in on social media from fans, athletes and other public figures. But some are also calling on the media and supporters not to forget a sexual assault allegation from early in his career — a case that was dropped before it went to trial, but which led Bryant to issue a statement apologizing to the woman for what he acknowledged was not a consensual encounter for her. “This is part of Kobe’s legacy and it does need to be discussed,” says Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine.

Chinese fans mourn Kobe Bryant’s death on social media

Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in southern California on Sunday, January 26, 2020. Bryant was one of China’s most-beloved basketball players, despite never playing in the country. His death triggered an outpouring of grief on Chinese social media as fans mourned him online.

These are the Other Victims of the California Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant | NowThis

7 others lost their lives in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. These are their stories.

Discussion Questions

Why might some people grieve the loss of a celebrity whom they’ve never met? How is it possible for someone to feel so connected to a virtual stranger that they feel the loss in the same way they would a significant other or relative with whom they had a strong connection?

Why might Americans be more lenient towards male athletes who abuse women and less lenient to male athletes who challenge the status quo? What patterns of socialization make a member of American society more or less tolerant of abuses of women? What can explain the distrust of allegations of sexual misconduct of superstar athletes?

How would you describe “rape culture” in the United States? Where can we find supportive messages for the degrading of women? How is this ideology embedded in the media, education, economy, the family, and more?

Why might the news media not dedicate as much attention to the other victims of this tragedy? Why might Gianna be omitted from media coverage and referred to simply as daughter? Or even more, lumped in with the rest of the 6 victims? What function does it serve for stabilizing society to focus media attention on the loss of a celebrity?

How does hegemonic masculinity drive cultural responses to stories of rapes? Why might some be reluctant to acknowledge that their favorite athlete might have committed this heinous crime? Why might celebrity status work to amplify cultural responses to rape allegations? What cultural components work to support the perpetuation of this trend?


Gianna “Gigi” Bryant was a daughter, basketball player, sister, and student. These are all examples of…
a. social roles
b. social positions
c. social statuses
d. social postures

Hegemonic ideas related to gender, sports, sex, power, and rape are driven by all of the following social institutions except…
a. Media
b. Economy
c. Education
d. Government
e. Hegemony is driven by all of the above, and more.

Which of the following sociological perspectives would investigate the question: “How is the death of a superstar experienced among LA Laker fans?”
a. Structural-Functional
b. Social Conflict
c. Symbolic-Interactionism
d. Rational Choice

Photo credit: Harry How/Getty Images

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