Inside Kobe and Vanessa Bryant's bitter rifts with parents – who 'skipped their wedding & cashed in on NBA star's fame'

WITH a £468million fortune, a string of luxury mansions and four beautiful daughters, basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa seemed to have it all.

Yet while the couple adored spending time with their young "princesses", they had a very different relationship with their own parents – filled with bitter rows, gold-digger claims and periods of estrangement.


NBA star Kobe – who once described his relationship with his folk as "s***" – had been desperately trying to reconcile with them when he died in a tragic helicopter crash with daughter Gianna, 13, in January.

A family business associate told The Sun at the time: "Kobe and his parents endured tumultuous times and it impacted his family life. He always chose Vanessa and his children first."

And former dancer and model Vanessa has had her own struggles, too: just this week, her mum Sofia Laine tearfully claimed her daughter had kicked her out of the house following Kobe's death.

“She also told me that she wanted her car and she wants it now," Laine said in an interview on Univision’s El Gorda y La Flaca show on Monday.

Vanessa, 38, has also had a strained relationship with her biological dad – who isn't a part of her life -and her stepfather, who previously accused her of being a money-grabber.


Followed in proud dad's footsteps

Yet Vanessa and Kobe's ties with their parents haven't always been rocky.

Growing up in the US – and, for a while, Italy – Kobe followed in his dad Joe Bryant's footsteps with his love of basketball (Joe, now 65, and Kobe''s uncle John 'Chubby' Cox, 64, were both professional players).

As a youngster, he'd go everywhere with Joe.

And in a powerful poem about basketball in 2015, Kobe wrote: "From the moment I started rolling my dad’s tube socks and shooting imaginary game-winning shots… I fell in love with you."

As his career rocketed, the young Los Angeles Lakers star posed for smiling pictures with his proud dad – including a snap taken after he won the NBA Championship in 2000.



Wedding no-shows

Yet just a year later, the father and son's relationship had deteriorated, after Joe and Kobe's mum, Pamela Bryant, failed to turn up to his wedding to Vanessa in April 2001.

Kobe had met Vanessa on the set of a music video in 1999. At the time, he was a 20-year-old promising basketball star, while his future "Queen", then 17, was still in high school.

In a sweet Instagram post in 2013, Kobe revealed how he asked for Vanessa's number that November, adding: "20 and 17 yrs old when we met, we have actually grown up together."

For their impressive first date, the pair went to Disneyland. They got engaged six months later – but Joe and Pamela believed their sports star son was too young to get hitched.



'Tense' dynamic after series of 'bust-ups'

Their decision to miss his wedding reportedly resulted in a two-year estrangement, ending only when Kobe and Vanessa's first daughter, Natalia, was born in January 2003.

"It was no secret that there was a distance between Vanessa and his folks after a series of bust-ups when they were dating, including them missing his wedding," a source told The Sun.

"That tense dynamic really never altered and Kobe attempted some reconciliations, but then he had his own run-ins and disagreements with them."

We celebrate 12 years of marriage today. This pic is the day I asked @ladyvb24 for her number 11/28/99. Thru the ups and downs she has been my love and best friend. 20 and 17 yrs old when we met, we have actually grown up together. A true honor and a blessing. Ti Amo Queen Mamba 🙂

A post shared byKobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4princesses) I love you my mamacita per sempre

A post shared byKobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

Raised by single mum

Like Kobe, Vanessa was close to her mum – who raised her and her big sister Sophie as a single mum – during her childhood. Her biological dad hasn't been in her life since she was a baby.

As a young girl, Vanessa also got on well with her stepdad, Stephen Laine. Both he and Sofia attended her and Kobe's intimate church wedding in Southern California.

Ahead of the ceremony, Vanessa and Kobe famously didn't sign a prenup. And Stephen later told the LA Times that his stepdaughter had said Kobe didn't want such an agreement because "he loved her too much".


As well as daughter Natalia, now 17, the couple went on to have Gianna – a talented basketball player herself – Bianka, three, and one-year-old Capri, who was born last June.

But though Kobe and his parents reconciled in the wake of their wedding spat, things turned sour again in 2013, when they attempted to auction off some of his basketball memorabilia.

'They sold my s***'

His mum Pamela had been planning to purchase a home with a $450,000 (£350,000) advance she'd received from an auction house after giving them a signed basketball, championship rings and other items.

Yet Bryant claimed in court papers that he'd not given her permission to sell the mementos. He later reached a settlement with the auction house that allowed his mum to sell a small amount of his memorabilia.


In a statement at the time, Kobe's parents apologised for any "unintended pain we may have caused our son" and said they appreciated the financial support he had given them over the years.

Despite the apology, the NBA legend told ESPN three years later: "Our relationship is s***. I say [to them], 'I'm going to buy you a very nice home, and the response is 'That's not good enough'?"

He added: "Then you're selling my s***?"

According to the outlet, Kobe hadn't spoken to his parents for three years since the auction incident. And on the other side of the family, Vanessa had endured her own family struggles.


'Gold-digger' claims

After 13 years of marriage, her mum divorced Stephen in 2003 amid claims he'd cheated – which he denied. In an interview two years later, Stephen fondly said Vanessa was "very sweet as a child".

However, in 2011, after Vanessa filed for a divorce from Kobe (which was later called off) over infidelity allegations, Stephen suggested she was a money-grabber "like her mum".

"Her mother taught her well to wait for the ten-year mark [before divorcing]," he told TMZ that December, claiming that he had to pay Sofia $1,800 every month.

He added: "In California… it's considered a long-term marriage and then she gets paid for life or until she remarries … just like her mother is doing to me."


From 'incredibly close' relationship to shock TV interview

Now, Vanessa has also apparently endured a fallout with her mum, after this week's TV interview where Sofia claimed her daughter had ordered her to "get out of this house".

The mum's remarks were in stark contrast to earlier reports that Sofia had been helping her daughter with Natalia, Bianka and Capri following Kobe and Gianna's deaths.

A source previously told US Weekly that Vanessa was "incredibly close to her mom” and that Sofia was “her rock” in the weeks following the tragedy in Calabasas, California.

“Her mom is always with her and the girls and she's been keeping Vanessa strong and she's the weight of her support system,” the source said.



Despite their seemingly endless parent dramas, Kobe and Vanessa were devoted to their own family of six. Kobe adored being a "girl dad", once telling ESPN: "I would have five more girls if I could."

And basketball legend Michael Jordan said:"Kobe [was] an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter's [Gianna's] love for the game of basketball."

Retiree Kobe, who was 41 when he died, had hoped Gianna would carry on his legacy. He had also reportedly wanted to fix his relationship with his parents once and for all.

"Kobe always wanted to mend things – he was a family guy and wanted nothing more than to have a big close family," a source told us.

Tragically, neither of Kobe's dreams will now happen. But he can count on his proud wife Vanessa and his surviving three daughters to continue his incredible legacy.

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