Kobe Bryant Appeared to Be on Better Terms With Dad Joe Before His Death, Family Friend Says

Kobe Bryant's relationship with his father, former basketball player and coach Joe Bryant, appeared to be on the mend when he and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning, a former coach said on Monday. Wayne Slappy, one of Bryant's ex-coaches, was close with Joe Bryant, and told the Daily Mail that he'd recently seen Kobe hug his father at a basketball camp in California.

"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," Slappy said of the two men.

Kobe reportedly had a falling out with his parents, Joe and Pam Bryant, in 2013 after they attempted to sell some of his basketball memorabilia without his knowledge. He told ESPN in 2016, "Our relationship is s—. 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—?"

Slappy, 67, told the Daily Mail that it seemed to him that Kobe was ready to mend fences with his loved ones. "Everybody's family has issues, disagreements here and there. The healing comes, but this healing is going to be hard because he's not here," he said, adding tearfully that Kobe "was starting to look so much more like [his dad] as he was getting older."

"Can you imagine a black hole? It's empty, how do you fill it? They're a close-knit family. He was 41 years old, and then his daughter dies in an accident with him, too. His family are going to miss him more than you can begin to imagine," Slappy said.

"I know NBA players whose kids can't stand them, they never spent any time with them. That ain't Kobe. He great up with his family loving each other. He was doing the same thing his father did for him, for his daughters, to the best of his ability."

Joe "Jellybean" Bryant played in the NBA himself from 1975 to 1983, playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers and Houston Rockets. He played in Europe until his retirement in 1992, then coached in different leagues around the world, including the WNBA, from 2003 to 2015. He said he learned of Kobe's death in a text message Sunday and "I just sat in the parking lot at Costco crying for an hour."

A neighbor of Joe's told the Daily Mail on Monday that he and wife Pamela are "just devastated."

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"It's a private, awful moment, losing their son and granddaughter, it's just horrific," the unnamed neighbor added.

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