Joe Bryant: Who Is Kobe Bryant’s Father?

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Kobe Bryant‘s father, Joe Bryant, spent a lifetime involved with the sport of basketball, one that goes beyond just being the father of his Hall of Fame son. The Philadelphia-born 65-year-old was a talented basketball player in his own right. A first-round draft pick in 1975, Joe’s professional career spanned 17 years and took him around the world.

While he helped pave his son’s path to being an NBA great, the pair’s relationship was not without complications. Kobe fell out with his parents after he married his wife Vanessa when he was 21 and she was 17. They reconciled after the birth of the couple’s oldest daughter, Natalia, but there was another fall out in 2013, after Kobe’s parents attempted to sell some of his memorabilia, according to a report by the New York Post.

According to that same report, Kobe was in the process of mending his relationship with Joe and his mother Pam before his tragic death.

Kobe’s former coach and a friend of Joe, Wayne Slappy, commented on the situation.

“Everybody’s family has issues, disagreements here and there,” Slappy said. “The healing comes, but this healing is going to be hard because he’s not here.”

Joe and his wife are also parents to Kobe’s two older sisters, Sharia and Shaya.

Joe Played Professional Basketball In The United States & Europe

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and father Joe Bryant (R) attend the game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Father's Day, June 21, 2009 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. The Dodgers won 5-3.
Featured image credit: Stephen DunnGetty Images

After becoming a college basketball star playing for La Salle University in his hometown of Philadelphia, Joe was drafted with the fourteenth pick in the first round of the 1975 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. He played as both a power forward and a center, though didn’t last long in Golden State.

He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers before his rookie season and was a member of the 1976-77 team that made it to the NBA Finals, though they ultimately lost to the Portland Trail Blazers four games to two. In 1979, he was traded to the San Diego Clippers, where he played until 1982. After his time in San Diego, Joe signed a deal with the Houston Rockets in 1983.

He left the Rockets after a single season and played primarily in Italy for the next seven seasons. He played for teams in the Italian A1 League and the Italian A2 League, including AMG Sebastiani Rieti from 1984 until 1986, Viola Reggio Calabria between 1986 and 1987, Pistoia from 1987 until 1989, and Reggio Emilia between 1989 and 1991.

After a short stint in France with FC Mulhouse Basket, Joe’s professional career was effectively over, but he did make a brief return when he joined the ABA’s Boston Frenzy in the 2004-05 season, when he was in his 50s.

Joe Found Success As A Head Coach

Head coach Joe Bryant of the Los Angeles Sparks talks with Candace Parker #3 (R) and teammates in the huddle during the WNBA game against the Phoenix Mercury at US Airways Center on September 3, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mercury defeated the Sparks 93-77. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

Joe entered the world of coaching after he returned from Europe, beginning with the role of head coach of the women’s varsity team at Akiba Hebrew Academy in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania between 1992 and 1993. During the summer of 1993, he would join his alma mater La Salle as an assistant coach. His most high profile coaching role came when he was head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. During the 2006 season, he led the Sparks to a 25-9 record and a berth in the Conference Finals.

After he left the Sparks in April 2007, Joe traveled to Japan, where he would coach Tokyo Apache in the Japanese BJ League. He returned to Italy in 2009 to become the head coach of AMG Sebastiani Rieti, the team that brought him to Italy 25 years earlier. His most recent coaching role was with Rizing Fukuoka of Japan in 2015.