Kobe Bryant Apologizes for Calling Out Girl on Basketball Team for Attending Recital Instead of Game

The former NBA athlete explained that he was trying to be motivational and simply pointing out why the girl was missing from their team photo

Kobe Bryant basketball team
Photo: Kobe Bryant/Instagram

Kobe Bryant had to walk back some remarks he made in a controversial Instagram caption, issuing not only a clarification of what he meant, but an apology too.

Bryant, 41, received major criticism on Wednesday from social media users after he called out one of the players on his daughter’s basketball team for missing an important game in order to go to a dance recital.

The former Laker has since defended his actions, claiming that the intention behind the post was not to shame or embarrass the middle schooler, but to point out why the young athlete was not pictured in his team’s fourth place photo.

The controversy first started over the weekend after the retired NBA player revealed that his AAU basketball team, the Mambas, had won a game by a dominating score of 115-27 against an opponent they had previously lost to.

The victory was a long time coming, as Bryant went on to reveal in additional Instagram posts that over the past two years, he encouraged his team to stay focused and “do the work” so that they could earn a trophy for finishing in first place, not fourth.

In the second Instagram post, however, the NBA star took his motivational message to an extreme, by pointing out that one of his players had missed the game from two years ago in order to attend a dance recital.

“Here’s our fourth place ‘winners’ picture lol six of the kids in the picture stayed with me and worked every single day to get better and continue to work to this day,” he captioned the shot before editing his message. “The 7th player (not in pic) missed this game for a dance recital so that should tell you where her focus was at this time.”

“From the original group of 7 we have added a player TWO years YOUNGER (6th grade now), a player who’s team in our area folded and a player who’s family moved here from Tennessee,” he continued. “The beauty of coaching is growing the players from the ground up. That journey continues #mambas #2yearsago.”

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game
Allen Berezovsky/Getty

Fans instantly noticed the apparent dig and called out Bryant for his comment about the girl.

“Imagine being in 8th grade and getting roasted by Kobe,” wrote one follower, while another added, “Lol Kobe throwing shade at a little girl.”

“He ain’t holding back on that one girl who went to that recital,” pointed out one user.

“How you about to call out a seventh grader for not being committed to what YOU want,” wrote another person. “The other girls are committed, fine, but that recital could mean a lot to that girl. Can’t put her on blast on social media like that.”

In response, Bryant addressed their concerns on Instagram and Twitter and explained that he was not shaming the child athlete purposefully.

“That wasn’t shade. She enjoyed dancing more than hooping at that time and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just pointing out that ball wasn’t the primary focus,” he responded to one fan. “Now? She LOVES basketball.”

Kobe Bryant basketball team
Kobe Bryant/Instagram

On Twitter, Bryant wrote, “Nah fam I was just explaining why she wasn’t in the pic. Most of my kids on the team played and still play other sports including my daughter so it’s all love. Don’t misunderstand the message.”

“Sorry if it came across as a slight, trust me it wasn’t. I was just giving the reason for her not being in the pic. They chose not to smile for the pic I actually followed their lead. Our team has become family and this includes the 7th player,” he added to another user.

When some fans raised concerns about the girls not smiling in the fourth place photo, the former NBA star explained that his team made the decision and he went along with it.

“Doing a dance to miss the game isn’t a bad thing. That’s not what I was saying. I was just giving context as to why she wasn’t in the picture. All my girls play/played diff sports,” he wrote. “It’s all good and For the record I followed their lead on not smiling. They HATED those trophies.”

Kobe Bryant basketball team
Kobe Bryant/Twitter
Kobe Bryant basketball team
Kobe Bryant/Twitter

Since his retirement from the NBA in 2016 — which ended in a spectacular 60 point showing from the athlete — Bryant has been coaching his daughters, Natalia, 16, and Gianna, 13, in AAU basketball.

He also shares Bianka, 2, and Capri, 2 months, with wife Vanessa.

The former Los Angeles Laker previously opened up to PEOPLE about the coaching role and explained that he was having a lot of fun with it, but also said he valued the gig for allowing him to teach his girls in a new environment.

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“A valuable lesson that I can teach them is what it means to pursue excellence and the commitment level that comes with that,” Bryant, an 18-time NBA All-Star, said of being a coach. “At the same time, making things fun and challenging, and learning new things.”

“But they’re having a blast. They’ve gotten extremely, extremely good over the course of the last year, and are continuing to work and get better, man. It’s been fun,” he added.

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