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The late-Kobe Bryant was a competitor and relished the one-on-one battles on the basketball court in his 20-year NBA career. In 2012, Bryant faced another kind of battle in a Tennessee court and ended up settling in a bizarre lawsuit with a fan who sued for being run over in his court-side seat.

Kobe Bryant’s career and his hustle

In Kobe Bryant’s Hall of Fame career, no one ever accused him of taking it easy on the court. The five-time NBA champion always played at top speed, and that pace, coupled with his rare talent, allowed him to excel on both sides of the ball. 

In his 20 seasons, Bryant earned 18 All-Star appearances, two scoring titles, and one league MVP. While those awards are impressive, the one honor that best represents someone’s tenacity on the court is the all-defensive team. Kobe Bryant earned that honor a remarkable 12 times.

Bryant’s willingness to do the dirty work on the court elevated his game to another level. With that mindset, Bryant never hesitated on loose balls, sacrificing his body and flying into the court-side seats to maintain possession for this team. The Mamba mentality.  

Other players regularly dive into the crowd

Fans who purchase court-side seats understand it’s a double-edged sword. The high-dollar seats are undoubtedly the best view in the entire arena, but that excellent vantage point comes with inherent risks. When an athletic man much larger than the average human comes chasing after a ball and barrels into the stands, bad things can, and sometimes, do happen.

Ironically, sometimes those incidents happen to other athletes and their families who have the disposable income to afford those top-priced seats. That’s what happened a few years ago in Cleveland to golfer Jason Day’s wife, Ellie, when the pair were sitting court-side at Quicken Loans Arena watching a Cavaliers game.

Then-Cavaliers star LeBron James hustled after a loose ball late in the game. In the process, his 6-foot-8-inch, 260-pound mass plowed over Day, sending her tumbling backward. Medical staff tended to Day, strapped her to a stretcher, and transported her to a local hospital. She was later released with concussion-like symptoms. 

Ellie Day’s case was a worst-case scenario, but her release from the hospital was the end of it. Nothing more. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for an incident with Lakers star Kobe Bryant back in 2005. 

Man sues Kobe Bryant for injuries sustained on dive into stands

In a 2005 game between the Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies, Bryant lunged for a loose ball and tumbled into the court-side seats where he ran over Bill Geeslin, an insurance agent from Arkansas. Geeslin suffered a bruised lung cavity and instead of accepting it as part of the NBA experience, opted to sue Bryant. 

In his deposition, Geeslin said that Bryant ran into him and then deliberately used his forearm on his chest. “He intentionally forearmed me in the chest. He did not apologize. He walked away and pushed — he kind of pushed his arm toward me and glared at me and walked away.”

Geeslin, who was 49 at the time, died two months after his 2008 deposition. There was no allegation that the contact from Bryant resulted in his death, but Geeslin said he felt like a “human punching bag” and felt violated. 

Even after his death, Geeslin’s family pursued the claim for an amount exceeding $75,000. The case was initially dismissed in 2010. On appeal, a 6th U.S. Circuit Court agreed with the federal district court for dismissing the emotional distress part of the lawsuit, but told the lower court to consider the assault and battery charges from the forearm shove.

The three-judge appeals panel ruled fans sitting court-side assume the risk of such contact, but that wouldn’t include the alleged forearm shove. In August 2012, as jury selection was scheduled to start, Bryant, obviously weary of dealing with the case for years, settled out of court with the family for an undisclosed amount.