Kobe Bryant, speaking in a Q&A session with GQ this week, has spoken candidly about the rape allegation levelled at him in 2003, and how the backlash led to a dramatic change in his attitude.
Accusation and reaction
The Los Angeles Lakers star, then 24-years-old, was arrested by Colorado police in the summer of 2003 after a hotel employee filed a sexual assault complaint against him accusing Bryant of raping her in a bedroom of the complex.
Although the assault case was eventually dropped, and Bryant vehemently denied anything non-consensual had taken place, his public image and reputation took a major hit. Speaking 12 years removed from the incident though, Bryant now describes the time as "a turning point."
"I started to consider the mortality of what I was doing," explained Bryant.
"What's important? What's not important? What does it mean when everybody loves you, and then everybody hates your guts for something they think you did? So that's when I decided that - if people were going to like me or not like me - it was going to be for who I actually was. To hell with all that plain vanilla s**t, just to get endorsement deals."
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Reputation on the brink
As the rape investigation got underway in 2003-04, Bryant saw several lucrative endorsement deals fall by the wayside - McDonalds and Nutella two of the big brands to distance themselves from the Lakers star.
The loss of big contracts at such a young age would throw any rising NBA star off kilter, but Kobe is adamant he didn't - and still couldn't - care less about the endorsement side of things.
"I don't enjoy doing them...The loss of the endorsements were really the least of my concerns."
More serious concerns
Instead it was the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence - 25-years to life - that worried Bryant the most despite his firm belief that he had not committed a crime.
And speaking in the Q&A session this week, Bryant revealed that a visit to a Catholic priest proved the defining moment. After Bryant had proclaimed his innocence, the priest quizzed the Lakers man on whether he had a good lawyer before giving Kobe some advice that he has clearly taken on board ever since.
"He just said, 'Let it go. Move on. God's not going to give you anything you can't handle, and it's in his hands now.This is something you can't control. So let it go.' And that was the turning point."
Bryant has gone on to add two further NBA titles to his resume in the years following, and has become amongst the most heavily endorsed athletes in sport. Now aged 36 and back on the sidelines following surgery it remains to be seen whether he can again find an inner strength to come back against the odds.
What do you think Lakers fans? Is Kobe capable of one more season at the top level? And is he the most driven player ever to play the game? Let us know in the comments section below...