Meet Joe Bryant — The Late Kobe Bryant's Father Who Was Also A Pro Basketball Player

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Kobe Bryant and Joe Bryant

The world is still reeling from the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, 13, but how is the rest of his family coping? 

Although it wasn't often that Bryant would speak out about his parents, he and his father, Joe Bryant, had a lot in common. In fact, they were both professional basketball players.

But who is Kobe Bryant's dad, Joe Bryant?

He didn't live his life in the spotlight quite as much as his son did, but here's what we do know about the late NBA legend's father.

Joe Bryant was also a professional basketball player.

Joe Bryant is not only known for his son's incredible skills on the court but also for his own basketball career. 

He played for the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers, and Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association. He also played for several teams in Italy and one in France. 

After his professional career as a basketball player ended, Joe became a head coach with the WNBA, coaching the Los Angeles Sparks from 2005 to 2007.

Throughout his coaching career, he also traveled coaching in Italy, Japan, and Thailand.

In 1975, he married Pam Bryant and aside from Kobe, they had two other children, daughters named Sharia and Shaya.

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He also played basketball in college.

Bryant attended La Salle University where he was a starting 6'9" forward and after graduating in 1975 he was drafted in the first round by the Golden State Warriors.

However, he was dealt to his home state in Philadephia to play for the 76ers where his career ultimately started.

Joe Bryant has an interesting nickname.

Joe Bryant during his basketball career ended up receiving an odd nickname: "Jellybean." He received the nickname in high school from a teammate due to Bryant's variety of moves on the court.

“It must be jelly because jam don’t shake like that,” Bryant remembered hearing, quoting the hit Glenn Miller song.

How much is Joe Bryant worth?

Kobe Bryant's father Joe is reportedly worth around $5 million as of 2020.

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Bryant said he'll always be a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers.

In a 2015 interview, Joe said he was a fan of the Lakers, and not just because his son played for them.

“I still enjoy watching Lakers,” he said. "And if he’s not there, I’m still gonna watch the Lakers game because you become a fan when your child is playing for them.”

Joe and Kobe Bryant were estranged for a while.

Kobe's decision to get engaged to Vanessa Laine when he was only 21 is something that his parents, Joe and Pam Bryant, could not get behind.

Kobe and his parents remained estranged for two years until his first child Natalia was born in 2003.

Joe and Kobe Bryant's relationship was on the mends.

Reportedly, Bryant and his parents had a strained relationship in his adult life, made worse when his mother auctioned off his basketball memorabilia, allegedly without his permission.

In 2013 when the memorabilia case was closed Kobe's parents issued a public apology to their son, "We apologize for any misunderstanding and unintended pain we have caused our son and appreciate the financial support he has provided over the years." 

In 2016, Bryant said that his relationship with them was "s***," but reportedly, he and his father had been working on mending things at the time of his death.

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“I just remember being with him up at his camp in Santa Barbara and seeing him hug his dad. You know how they loved each other from how they looked at each other, how they smiled,” NBA coach and family friend Wayne Slappy said.

Joe Bryant grieved his family's loss in private.

Shortly after Kobe's death in January of 2020, Joe was seen outside his home in Las Vegas, receiving flowers that had been sent to his family. At that time, he didn't speak to the press, and an anonymous neighbor said that he and his wife, Pam, were grieving the loss of Kobe and Gianna privately.​

"I talked to them twice yesterday and took over food and a card, and briefly today, they are just devastated, as you can imagine," said the neighbor. "It's a private, awful moment, losing their son and granddaughter, it's just horrific. I was talking to Joe briefly the day before, we were out for a walk, it was all happy and good and talking about the gorgeous weather and then it switched in 24 hours where their lives were turned upside down."

So far, the closest thing they've done to releasing a statement is through a neighbor in Las Vegas, who shared that they'd speak to the public eventually, but not while Bryant's death was so fresh.

"Right now they have nothing to say but they are obviously heartbroken," said the neighbor. "There will not be any comments from the family right away. At some point, the family will be reaching out but right now we are all in shock. Right now they're just trying to be a family."

Vanessa Bryant, who not only lost her husband but also her daughter, Gianna, in the tragic helicopter crash, has spoken out to acknowledge the sympathy and love she has received from the nation.

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Nicole Pomarico is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in Cosmo, Us Weekly, Refinery29, and more.