"Kobe Bryant's comment during last night's game was offensive and inexcusable," said NBA Commissioner David Stern in a statement. "While I'm fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated."
Frustrations were already high for Bryant and the Lakers on Tuesday night. They were riding a five-game losing streak and struggling against a San Antonio Spurs team that sat their three best players for a game the Lakers needed to win to help their playoff positioning.
After being whistled for an offensive foul and then a technical foul during the third quarter, Bryant went to the bench and was visibly upset with referee Bennie Adams.
Bryant punched his chair before taking a seat and threw a towel on the court in frustration.
The camera then caught Bryant directing what appeared to be a gay slur toward Adams.
The Human Rights Campaign commended the NBA for the fine.
"We applaud Commissioner Stern and the NBA for not only fining Bryant but for recognizing that slurs and derogatory comments have no place on the basketball court or in society at large, " said HRC President Joe Solmonese in a statement.
Solmonese and Bryant later spoke on the phone over the matter.
"I applaud Kobe Bryant for his swift apology," Solmonese said in a statement. "We had a very sincere conversation in which he expressed his heartfelt regret for the hurt that his words caused. He told me that it's never ok to degrade or tease, and that he understands how his words could unfortunately give the wrong impression that this is appropriate conduct. At the end of a difficult day, I applaud Kobe for coming forward and taking responsibility for his actions."
Bryant released a statement through the Lakers.
"What I said last night should not be taken literally," Bryant said. "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone," he said.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also spoke out against the slur.
"Discriminatory slurs have no place on or off the court," GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said in a statement. "Professional sports players need to set a better example for young people who use words like this on the playground and in our schools."
Bryant was on the ESPN's Mason & Ireland sports talk radio show saying his comments were made in the heat of the moment.
"The concern that I have is for those who follow what I say and are inspired by how I play or look to me as a role model, for them not to take what was said as something as a message of hate, a license to degrade or embarrass or tease," Bryant said.
The HRC said some good can come from of it if he uses it as a teachable moment.
The Lakers went on to win the game 102-93.
They are in Sacramento for Wednesday night's regular season finale against the Kings.