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Hard to forget one ugly period of Kobe Bryant’s wonderful career

I’ve been thinking about some of the things that bug me about Kobe Bryant.

He announced his retirement in a poem, which is enough to make anyone gag.

He so blatantly copied Michael Jordan’s game that he should be paying him royalties.

He has been the subject of enough breathless updates on ESPN over the past few years that the sports network will have a huge programming hole to fill. First Derek Jeter, now Kobe. How will we carry on?

But when I think about the Lakers star, the first thing that comes to mind is the sexual-assault allegation against him in 2003. A 19-year-old hotel employee accused him of raping her inside a hotel room in Eagle, Colo. The accuser eventually refused to testify against Bryant, criminal charges were dropped, and Bryant and the woman reached a settlement over her civil lawsuit.

In a statement at the time, Bryant said: “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.’’

Wait, “no’’ means “no?”

Let’s face it, most people moved on a long time ago from the sexual-assault accusations against Bryant. There are second acts in America, especially for sports stars. Stick around long enough and play well enough, and fans will forget the messy, inconvenient stuff.

I’m sure ESPN will run gooey tributes that will glide over the rape case. But for some of us, a settlement doesn’t equal amnesia. It means something happened in that hotel room. You won’t find that in Bryant’s retirement poem. Hard to find a phrase that rhymes with “sexual assault,’’ I guess.