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Sports and Celebrity cases: By Pamela Mackey

published April 12, 2004

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Sports and Celebrity cases: By Pamela Mackey

Sports injuries are not only common, they frequently have ramifications that can change the fates of the athletes involved. Just ask Kobe Bryant and Pamela Mackey, the woman in charge of defending him from sexual assault charges. If it hadn't been for a shoulder that required surgery, Bryant would not have found himself in Eagle, Colorado at the Lodge and Spa in Cordillera. And if not for blowing out both shoulders while pursuing her gymnastic dreams at the University of Minnesota, Pamela Robillard Mackey might never have wound up practicing law. But both did happen, and the events that followed have resulted in the most recent entry in the Trial of the Century sweepstakes - a case that involves sexual assault, race, celebrity and money and, despite the fact that its outcome will not be resolved until May or June at the earliest, still manages to make national headlines at least once a week. For Kobe Bryant is not just any basketball celebrity; he's charismatic, astonishingly gifted, and scored 1,080 on his SAT's (a fact that has been reported more times than there are points in that score). And if Bryant's intelligence was never in question, his judgment was often suspect; everything from his shot selection to getting married to a woman just out of high school was finger-wagging fodder for the press, culminating in the events of that night in Colorado last June.

And yet Bryant's decision to hire Pamela Mackey - along with her partner, Hal Haddon, to defend him in his upcoming trial - silenced the critics who wondered if Kobe had lost it for good. Mackey was an ingenious choice: a woman, a former public defender, and that rarest of rare attorneys who has experience trying high-profile cases, yet does not plug shamelessly for the camera. And while Bryant still faces steep challenges ahead, they will most likely be leveled significantly by his lead counsel who, in a career that has spanned nearly twenty years, has proven that fate, though cruel at times, does tend to favor the most prepared of minds.

Pamela Robillard Mackey was born in 1956 to an MIT and Harvard-educated engineer father and a homemaker mother in Indiana. The oldest of five siblings, Mackey was an outstanding athlete who, upon her acceptance to the University of Minnesota, naturally assumed that she would turn her physical talents and fierce competitive spirit into gymnastics glory. She promptly blew out both shoulders and, when asked about the event, says simply: ''That was a disaster for me.''

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