According to the Los Angeles Times, the public fallout between Bryant and his parents — dad Joe Bryant, a former NBA player, and mom, Pamela Bryant — dates back to his relationship with eventual wife, Vanessa Bryant. Notably, neither Joe nor Pamela attended the couple’s marriage in April 2001.
But Bryant — who was killed in a helicopter crash alongside his daughter, Gianna Bryant, on Sunday — and his father appeared to reconcile in 2005 when Joe joined the Los Angeles Sparks as a coach. And when the Lakers chased a championship in 2010, Bryant’s parents were in the stands for a few games — yet, they reportedly attended thanks to an invitation from a fan and not because of Bryant himself.
Though their relationship seemed to be healing, things came to a halt in 2013 when Joe and Pamela attempted to auction off a large collection of memorabilia from Bryant’s career, including uniforms from his time at Lower Merion High School, and a pair of Lakers championship rings from 2000 that he had gifted them.
Bryant said his parents did not notify him of the auction and did not give them permission to sell the items, according to the New York Post.
This sparked a lawsuit that ended with a public apology from Joe and Pamela, who thanked their son for his financial support throughout his storied career.
“We regret our actions and statements related to the Kobe Bryant auction memorabilia,” they said in a statement at the time. “We apologize for any misunderstanding and unintended pain we have caused our son and appreciate the financial support he has provided over the years.”
A settlement still allowed for 10 percent of the items set for auction to be sold, ESPN reported.
Joe and Pamela were noticeably absent during their son’s final NBA game in April 2016.
In a 2016 interview, Bryant touched upon the aftermath of the lawsuit and how it affected his relationship with his family.
“Our relationship is s–t,” he told ESPN. “I say, ‘I’m going to buy you a very nice home,’ and the response is, ‘That’s not good enough?’ Then you’re selling my s–t?”
In the piece, Bryant praised his two sisters, Sharia and Shaya, for developing their own careers.
“I’m really proud of them,” Bryant said, adding that he had ceased helping them financially. “They were able to get their own jobs, get their own lives, take care of themselves. Now they have a better sense of self, of who they are as people, instead of being resentful because they were relying on me.”
Despite Bryant’s damaged relationship with his parents, things may have improved after his 2016 retirement from the NBA, according to a family friend and former coach, Wayne Slappy.
Slappy told the Daily Mail that Bryant and his father were recently seen hugging at an event and appeared to have made amends.
“I just remember being with him up at his camp in Santa Barbara and seeing him hug his dad,” Slappy, told the outlet. “You know how they loved each other from how they looked at each other, how they smiled.”
“Can you imagine a black hole? It’s empty, how do you fill it?” Slappy said of Bryant, who is survived by Vanessa, 37, as well as daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months. “They’re a close-knit family.”
“He was 41 years old, and then his daughter dies in an accident with him, too,” he added. “His family are going to miss him more than you can begin to imagine.”