Kobe and Vanessa Bryant's divorce: Basketball wives' 'glamorous life' backfires

The old adage hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, is about to take on new meaning in the life of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant. According to the court documents filed, Kobe’s wife Vanessa Bryant is filing for divorce, while requesting spousal support and joint custody of the couple’s two daughters, 8-year-old Natalia and 5-year-old Giana. Rumor has it that she is leaving due to alleged “infidelity” on the part of her husband. So for all of you women out there who watch Basketball Wives, or think that these women have the “glamorous life”, think again.

Being married to a pro athlete can look like a dream come true — a life filled with expensive cars, world class vacations, designer clothing and luxurious mansions. But there is a darker side, mostly unspoken until the divorce papers are filed.

In Vanessa Bryant’s case we all know the deal, because we watched her endure a public criminal trial in 2002 when her husband was accused of raping a 19-year-old white woman. She stood by his side, but at what cost? Yes, Vanessa is a real life basketball wife and we likely have no clue what she has endured for the past 10 years as the quiet and loyal wife to the Laker’s star player.

One of my high school friends and track competitors, Timi Crawford, married ex-NBA player Pervis Ellison and one of my law school classmates, Crystal McCrary, married ex-NBA player Greg Anthony, and I imagine both of them could tell us stories (Crystal McCrary actually did in her book Homecourt Advantage) about life in the NBA.

According to media reports that surfaced last week Vanessa Bryant has had enough of her husband’s cheating ways and has finally filed for divorce. The bad news for Kobe is that they have no prenup agreement, which is fairly standard in the lives of celebrities and sports figures. Given the high profile nature of this divorce, I thought I’d put my lawyer hat on and give you some insights into what you can expect to see as the Bryants end their 10 year marriage.

1. California is what we call a “community property” state and barring a prenup, under California law Vanessa is entitled to half of his earnings, pension, and property.

2. Even if she had a prenup with Kobe, just as in the Tiger Woods divorce, a prenup is usually null and void if one party cheats in the marriage, or at least it is significantly altered as to what the injured spouse can expect in the “out” clause. Adultery, however, or “grounds” as we say in the legal business will not impact this settlement because as I mentioned, California law says you split the property/assets 50 percent and walk away. In my home state of Virginia, which is a commonwealth, adultery would be grounds not only for divorce but for an increase in the pay-out. It is almost like the notion of punitive damages in a personal injury case — or payment for “pain and suffering.”

3. The expected pay-out to Vanessa Bryant is a bit murky, but suffice it to say Bryant makes in excess of $25 million annually and has a reported net worth of over $200 million dollars. She can expect to receive north of $100 million dollars unless she agrees to take less (which I see as highly unlikely given her public humiliation and his extra-marital affairs).

At the end of day this is yet another sad chapter in the lives of professional sports players and their wives. I think the bigger issue we should address is the existing culture that encourages our young women to become groupies, have sex with these men, and go to any lengths necessary to “capture” one of them and become the “wife.”

While we can all agree not all sportsmen cheat on their wives, we hear far too many stories of those who do. Vanessa Bryant is just the latest wife, to not only file for a divorce, but to become an instant millionaire in the process.