Ahead of NBA All-Star Weekend, the team from TNT's Inside the NBA — Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson — sat down with Today show's Craig Melvin to share their thoughts on the late Kobe Bryant. At one point, the conversation came around to Bryant's controversial past, with Barkley speaking out about the subject, which has sparked a vibrant discussion on social media.
"Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players ever and he had a flaw that we all know about," Barkley said. "You have to tell the picture in totality. We're not trying to make 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."
Smith also chimed in on the past sexual assault allegations against Bryant, saying that he believes "we're all imperfect people," later adding what made Kobe a magnet to the masses around the world was that he "was the greatest at times."
"So that's what people saw…he challenges people," Smith said. "So do I think it was appropriate or inappropriate? We all are imperfect, but I think what he has done, and challenged the world to be, we all saw it."
Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, the aircraft's pilot, and six other passengers. Bryant was 41 years old at the time of the crash, which has since been ruled an accident.
"I've never seen anything like this before," he admitted. "I was at the house the day it happened and my son brought me the thing. You know how the internet is. Stop playing with me, get out of my face with that right now. Just stop and then I got the calls. A guy who helped me become as big as I am, and we will always be forever linked."
Smith then added, "It's a relatable tragedy. We all jump in a minivan. We all do that with our kids. He was doing it in a helicopter. I looked at it more as not a great player but a dad was lost and a coach was lost,"0comments
"And for me, me and Kobe were not close but I just started crying when I got the news. I felt like I had lost a member of my family," Barkley shared.