KOBE BRYANT DIVORCE SHOWDOWN

Published on: July 30, 2003

Kobe Bryant's beautiful wife Vanessa is bravely standing by her man -- but up until he was charged with rape, their marriage was falling apart and they were considering divorce, say sources.

Now Vanessa's love and devotion are repairing their tattered relationship!

"Kobe's amazed that Vanessa has stood by him," a close source told The ENQUIRER.

"He has not been interested in Vanessa sexually since she gave birth to their daughter in January.

"He'd begun listening to people, including members of his own family, who have been warning Kobe that Vanessa is only after his money and fame.

"He had talked privately about getting divorced before the Colorado incident happened -- but now he's talking about nothing else except the love he has for Vanessa."

Confirmed a family friend: "Kobe and Vanessa had been snapping at one another on a regular basis and that's why she didn't go with him to Colorado (where he was charged with rape).

"His friends and family were afraid they'd file for divorce before the year was over."

Kobe and Vanessa made a show of togetherness at a press conference on July 18, after the charges were filed and he'd admitted having a one-night stand with his accuser.

But the marriage had been "hanging by a thread even before the allegations were made public," said the close source.

"Vanessa is said to be privately very demanding -- very hard on Kobe and bitter that she wasn't accepted by his family until recently."

The relationship faced an uphill struggle almost from the beginning, say sources.

Kobe's parents, Joe and Pam, were dead-set against the marriage -- arguing their son was too young to tie the knot at 22 and that 18-year-old Vanessa was too young to know if she truly loved him or was just caught up in his celebrity lifestyle, say the sources.

"Things became so bad between Kobe and his parents that they stopped speaking, but he went right ahead with the wedding and they got hitched in April 2001," said the close source.

Unfortunately, marriage didn't stop the criticism. Some of those closest to 24-year-old Kobe repeatedly charged his wife was a self-centered gold digger.

"Kobe's teammates on the Lakers want nothing to do with Vanessa because they feel she's just after his dough," said the close source.

As Kobe started paying more attention to the venom being spewed, he began becoming more distant, claims the close source.

"Things have been very cold between Kobe and Vanessa -- and his friends aren't shocked that he sought comfort with another woman. His marriage has been going bad for months. They are shocked, of course, that a woman is alleging that Kobe raped her. That they find hard to believe."

Lately the couple had been "arguing frequently," said the family friend.

"But when Kobe was arrested his entire family circled the wagons and all the bad feelings disappeared. Kobe's father immediately flew in from Philadelphia and along with Vanessa they have shown a united front."

Revealed the close source: "Vanessa is standing by Kobe and has been loving and supportive -- and Kobe's found he's quickly fallen back in love with her.

"Vanessa is determined to hold their marriage together. Though her heart has been shattered, she believes that Kobe has learned a valuable lesson. She's convinced they can move on and that he'll never, ever do this again."

Happily, the source says Kobe's parents have warmed to Vanessa and healed the rift with Kobe -- finally seeing their granddaughter Natalia several months after her January birth.

"Natalia is the apple of Kobe's eye," said the close source.

"When she was born, he wore her birth-identification bracelet at his next game. He loves his daughter more than anything in this world."