Tiger Woods, you’re finally off the hook.
TMZ reported Sunday morning that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant cheated multiple times with multiple partners on his wife of more than a decade -- events that led to Vanessa Bryant’s surprise divorce filing in an Orange County, Calif. court Friday.
Of course, if this is true, Bryant -- whose public approval rating has vacillated wildly over the years from boy wonder to unlikeable cad to uber-determined workaholic -- will likely go back into the media doghouse as the latest celebrity athlete to succumb to carnal temptation.
And this story will be around for weeks, if not months.
According to TMZ, Vanessa Bryant knew that her husband had been involved with “multiple women” over the years, but a recent affair pushed her over the edge.
In a joint statement released Friday, the couple asked that the media to respect their privacy, as well as the well-being of their two young daughters.
Given the public’s taste for these kinds of stories, and the long-gestating Bryant-family drama -- not to mention the fact that the marriage had no pre-nuptial agreement -- that request isn’t likely to be granted.
The fact that Bryant and the Lakers will be showcased in a game against the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day won’t help, either.
In 2003, Bryant was accused by a Colorado hotel worker of rape -- a charge he was later cleared of, but not before he had to publicly apologize to Vanessa Bryant for an act of infidelity.
At that pre-TMZ time, celebrity magazines like People ran breathless reports of Bryant’s “apology ring” -- which included an eight-carat purple diamond -- complete with photos.
After losing most of his endorsement contracts -- even sandwich-spread maker Nutella wanted nothing to do with him -- Kobe Bryant gradually rebuilt his public reputation. Several NBA Championships, as well as a Gold Medal-winning performance at the 2008 Summer Olympics re-cast him as a flawed but highly dedicated professional who had finally grown up in the public eye.
But rumors about his married life continued to haunt him over the last few years, with sportswriters noting Vanessa’s imperious behavior during locker-room visits and a nanny suing the couple for allegedly being mistreated.
Last spring, after the Lakers’ inexplicable flameout in the Western Conference Semifinals to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks, a rumor circulated that gossip by the Bryants about the alleged infidelities of teammates had created a rift in the Lakers’ locker room. All parties involved denied it.
In any event, Kobe Bryant will likely now face a level of media scrutiny that dwarfs even what he endured during 2003-04, with the internet -- and the Tiger Woods effect -- doubling the platforms, speed and avarice at which these kinds of stories are reported.
“What’s ironic … is that Vanessa still loves Kobe -- but she just can’t stand his infidelities anymore,” TMZ wrote.