Kobe Bryant enjoyed one of the most illustrious professional basketball careers ever seen. Not only does he rank number four on the all-time scoring list, but he also won an impressive five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant, in other words, was a celebrity of the highest order, one whose legend will continue to reverberate throughout NBA history.
Like most major sports figures, Bryant was the object of massive interest from fans, who wanted to learn as much about him as possible. Yet for all the attention Bryant received throughout his life, many people still don’t know much about his parents. Here we take a closer look at the impact Bryant’s parents had on his life, as well his relationship with them in later years and their response to his tragic death.
Parents and early life
Bryant, the youngest of three children, as well as the only boy was born in 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Joe and Pamela Cox Bryant. At the time of Bryant’s birth, his father Joe was in the midst of his own NBA career.
He ultimately spent eight years in the league between 1975 and 1983, playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Diego Clippers, and the Houston Rockets.
In that time, Joe Bryant averaged 8.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. Following the 1982-83 season, Bryant elected to move overseas to play basketball in the European league.
Thus Kobe Bryant spent most of his childhood living in various cities in Italy. By the time the family moved to Philadelphia when Bryant was 13, he could speak fluent Italian.
Back in the United States, Joe Bryant took a position coaching women’s varsity basketball team at Akiba Hebrew Academy in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. He soon left that job for an assistant coaching position at his college alma mater, La Salle University. Meanwhile, his son Kobe was quickly entering the public spotlight thanks to his extraordinary high school basketball career.
Kobe Bryant’s later relationship with his parents
By all accounts, Bryant enjoyed a happy and healthy childhood, well taken care of by Joe and Pamela. Yet in later years, Bryant’s relationship with his parents became rocky — and even completely estranged. Bryant, of course, was a notoriously private person, so not a lot is known about the factors that lead to the deterioration of his relationship with his parents.
That said, most commentators agree that trouble first arose when Bryant became involved the woman who would ultimately become his wife and the mother of his children, Vanessa Bryant. As evidence that this relationship somehow caused a rift, sources often point out that neither of Bryant’s parents attended his wedding in 2001.
Over the following decade, there were some signs that things were improving between Bryant and his parents. They would appear at games now and then — most notably during the 2010 playoffs. Yet things took a huge downturn in 2013, when it was revealed that the Bryants were attempting to auction off a collection of their son’s memorabilia.
Bryant responded swiftly — some might say unmercifully — to the incident, by filing a lawsuit against his parents. He claimed that they had not informed him of their intention, nor had he given them his permission. His parents publicly apologized, but the damage seemed to have been done.
Have Kobe Bryant’s parents commented on his death?
Insiders were hopeful that Bryant would be able to heal his relationship with his parents once he had retired. There were even some signs that that was happening. A former coach of Bryant’s, Wayne Slappy, recently recalled seeing him hugging his father at an event in 2016. How far along that healing process had gotten at the time of Bryant’s death is still unknown.
In the weeks since Bryant’s tragic passing, his parents have not made any public statements. However, they did make an appearance at the recent memorial held at the Staples Center. While they didn’t speak at the event, they were seen interacting with various attendees, including Magic Johnson and Derek Fisher.