Still, the retired NBA star says his friend "will be fine" despite his personal struggles

By Dahvi Shira
Updated December 22, 2011 03:15 PM
Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic, Billy Ingram/WireImage

Kobe Bryant may be going through a tough separation from Vanessa Bryant, his wife of a decade, but don’t expect his fans to be sympathetic, says retired NBA star Charles Barkley.

“I really like Kobe; I wish him all the best,” Barkley, 48, said Tuesday on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. “But of course the fans are cruel. They’re going to be shouting stuff at him. He’s going to have to deal with that.”

The tartness, Leno points out, could stem from Bryant’s alleged infidelities.

“That’s never good for a team,” Barkley says of the gossip. “I’m just telling you, that’s never positive.”

Regardless of fan taunting or the end of his marriage, Bryant, 33, will survive, the NBA Hall of Famer says.

“He’s so strong, mentally,” Barkley says. “I think he’ll be fine.”