It was clear that Kobe Bryant‘s heart was full of love for his wife and daughters, but his relationship with his own parents and siblings was a little more complicated. Over the years, the professional athlete had a rocky history with dad Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, mom Pamela Cox Bryant and sisters Sharia Washington and Shaya Bryant-Tabb, including periods of estrangement. Keep scrolling to meet the star’s family members.
Bryant worked hard on his relationship with sisters Sharia and Shaya.
Bryant, who passed away at age 41 on January 26, was the baby of his family. He had two older sisters, Sharia, 43, and Shaya, 42, both of whom have started families over their own. According to her Facebook, Sharia lives in Las Vegas and has three children, two daughters and a son. Middle sibling Shaya also lives in Vegas with her family, including one daughter and two sons. Following her brother’s passing, the older sister commemorated his loss with a photo collage shared on social media.
Though it was clear that the Lakers star loved his siblings, he was open about their complicated relationship. In a letter he penned to his younger self in 2016, published on The Player’s Tribune, he opened up about how his monetary success played a role in the tension that existed between them.
“When your Laker dream comes true tomorrow, you need to figure out a way to invest in the future of your family and friends,” he told a 17-year-old Bryant. “Purely giving material things to your siblings and friends may appear to be the right decision. … But the day will come when you realize that as much as you believed you were doing the right thing, you were actually holding them back. … Understand that you are about to be the leader of the family, and this involves making tough choices, even if your siblings and friends do not understand them at the time.”
In the same letter, however, he revealed that delicate relationship was one he worked on and healed with Sharia and Shaya over time. Hinting that he had to “deal with the hurt and struggle of weaning them off of the addiction that [he] facilitated,” he acknowledged that their hard work and hustle paid off. “As time goes on, you will see them grow independently and have their own ambitions and their own lives, and your relationship with all of them will be much better as a result,” he wrote.
On social media, Bryant also took the occasional opportunity to brag about his sisters. In 2013, he shared a photo of Sharia on the volleyball court “crushin’ one” above the net. “I just had to share,” he captioned it proudly. “#MambaGenes.”
His relationship with parents Joe and Pamela was equally complex.
Joe, 65, and Bryant shared a love for basketball — and mom Pamela also comes from a basketball family. In his day, Bryant’s father was drafted into the NBA by the Golden State Warriors and played for the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers and Houston Rockets before his career led him to play in Europe. After his time on the court, he took to the sidelines as a coach for teams like the Los Angeles Sparks. Bryant’s mother was the sister of another NBA player, the Washington Bullets’ Chubby Cox. Despite that, the game occasionally came between the family.
In a 2016 interview with ESPN, the Lakers star admitted that he hadn’t spoken to his parents in three years. “Our relationship is s–t,” he said at the time. He cited their 2013 legal battle, in which Joe and Pamela fought their son for the right to sell some of his memorabilia that was in their possession, as the reason for their fall out. “I say [to them], ‘I’m going to buy you a very nice home, and the response is ‘That’s not good enough’?” he said in the interview. “Then you’re selling my s–t?”
After the Bryants settled the matter, the parents apologized. “We regret our actions and statements related to the Kobe Bryant auction memorabilia,” they said in a statement. “We apologize for any misunderstanding and unintended pain we may have caused our son and appreciate the financial support that he has provided to us over the years.”
Despite that, in his letter on The Player’s Tribune published a few months after the interview, he cited “the challenges of mixing blood with business” as one of the reasons for their distance. “The most important advice I can give to you is to make sure your parents remain PARENTS and not managers,” he wrote. “Before you sign that first contract, figure out the right budget for your parents — one that will allow them to live beautifully while also growing your business and setting people up for long-term success. … Trust me, setting things up right from the beginning will avoid a ton of tears and heartache, some of which remains to this day.”
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