Bryants faced hurdles long before sexual assault case
LOS ANGELES -- They met at a music video shoot. She was an 18-year-old high school student working as a background model. He was 21, living in wealthy Pacific Palisades with a huge NBA contract and millions of dollars in endorsement deals.
Six months later, Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Laine were engaged. A year later, in April 2001, they walked over red rose petals to begin their life together.
Even before the accusations of sexual assault against the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar, their marriage had already endured many hurdles.
About a dozen people attended their private wedding ceremony, but the basketball player's parents -- Joe and Pam Bryant -- weren't among them.
Kobe's parents had already moved back East after living with their only son during his first couple years in the NBA. A rift developed because his parents objected to his marriage to Vanessa.
"I had taken matters into my own hands, marrying my wife so young, they didn't know her," Kobe told ABC Sports in June.
After the marriage, his father rarely attended Lakers games and the two reportedly didn't speak to each other for nearly two years.
"Twenty years from now, when his own child grows up, he'll understand what I'm doing," Joe Bryant told the Los Angeles Times in an interview in April.
Vanessa's mother, Sofia Laine, also had misgivings.
"Although I was happy for Vanessa, particularly since Kobe is a very kind and respectful young man, their relationship caused a great deal of stress for me," she said in court documents filed in her divorce case.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson also questioned the wisdom of such a young person getting married.
Since their marriage, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant led their lives out of the limelight -- as much as possible for a celebrity couple.
Their marriage license is a special type covered by confidentiality laws. And it is not known, for example, whether the couple has a prenuptial agreement. Such agreements are private contracts and typically don't become public unless there is a divorce filing.
Kobe Bryant usually keeps to himself when on road trips with the team; and Vanessa rarely attends Lakers games or Hollywood events.
But when her husband was charged with sexual assault, she appeared at a news conference, holding his hand and stroking it tenderly as the NBA star admitted he was guilty of adultery -- but nothing else. Earlier, she had issued her own statement to the media, vowing to stand by her husband.
"I know that my husband has made a mistake -- the mistake of adultery," she said. "He and I will have to deal with that within our marriage, and we will do so. He is not a criminal."
The Bryants' representatives will not answer questions, instead referring calls to Kobe's criminal defense attorney, Pamela Mackey. Her office said the couple isn't accepting interview requests. Attorneys in the case are now also under a gag order.
Before they married, court documents show Vanessa's family life was already in turmoil. Her mother and stepfather filed for bankruptcy in 2000, and Vanessa and Kobe helped them out with cash and gifts worth more than $500,000, according to documents filed in the Laines' pending divorce case.
Kobe also paid off a $230,000 mortgage on his in-laws' Garden Grove house, according to the court filings, as well as phone, dental and credit card bills and two car loans.
Then in July 2002, Sofia Laine filed for divorce, claiming in court documents that husband Stephen Laine was "involved in another relationship." They had been married for 12 years.
About a month before the divorce filing, Sofia Laine, who wasn't working because of debilitating back pain, told the court she was no longer receiving cash gifts from Vanessa and Kobe.
The financial support is at issue because Stephen Laine's filings show he believes he should pay less than standard alimony.
"I never represented to my mother that I would `take care of her' financially if she stopped working," Vanessa Bryant told the court last September.
Stephen Laine's attorney, Glen Rabenn, said his client would not comment on his stepdaughter, who took his last name in 2000 even though he never adopted her.
"He does not want to offend Vanessa. He loves Vanessa as his own daughter," Rabenn said. And he "thinks the world of Kobe."
One of Sofia Laine's attorneys, Doreen Olson, didn't return messages.
Kobe and Vanessa Bryant made a rare public appearance Saturday night, attending the 2003 Teen Choice Awards, where he was honored as favorite male athlete. Bryant made a peace sign with his fingers and a thumbs-up gesture, and waved to fans. He also kissed his wife's hand. Three days after he was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in Colorado, Bryant surprised his wife with a $4 million, eight-carat purple diamond ring while at a Santa Monica jewelry store, according to People magazine. The ring had been commissioned two weeks earlier.
"They looked very happy together," jeweler Raffi Kouyoumjin told the magazine.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index