Kobe Bryant’s heartbroken father Joe has been seen for the first time since losing his son, 41, and his 13-year-old granddaughter Gigi in a helicopter crash.
The 65-year-old retired NBA star, affectionately known as Jellybean, stepped out of the home he shares with Kobe’s mother, Pamela, in Las Vegas – after a giant bouquet of yellow flowers were delivered on Monday afternoon.
This comes as neighbors told DailyMail.com that Joe and Pamela’s lives have been turned ‘upside down’. A neighbor, who asked not to be named, said the family is too heartbroken to comment on the tragedy and are grieving privately.
‘I talked to them twice yesterday and took over food and a card, and briefly today, they are just devastated, as you can imagine,’ the neighbor said, adding:
‘It’s a private, awful moment, losing their son and grand-daughter, it’s just horrific. I was talking to Joe briefly the day before, we were out for a walk, it was all happy and good and talking about the gorgeous weather and then it switched in 24 hours where their lives were turned upside down.’
The neighbor said Joe and Pamela are ‘very close’ to their daughters Sharia and Shaya who live in Las Vegas and the family has been rallying together, adding: ‘They just need their peace, it’s been nonstop since yesterday.
‘They were here this morning and yesterday. It’s a sensitive time, I can’t even imagine what they’re going through. They are lovely, kind, decent people.’
Earlier on Monday Kobe’s former coach and best friend of his father Joe, Wayne Slappy, told DailyMail.com that the NBA star’s family is struggling to deal with a ‘black hole’ left by his death.
The 67-year-old basketball coach, who has been close friends with Joe for decades, said Kobe’s family have been left feeling empty.
‘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,’ Slappy said.
He added: ‘His family are going to miss him more than you can begin to imagine. I know NBA players whose kids can’t stand them, they never spent any time with them. That ain’t Kobe.
‘He grew 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.’
Kobe leaves behind wife Vanessa, daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, three, seven-month-old Capri, and his parents and sisters Sharia and Shaya.
Slappy said despite deep divisions between Kobe and his parents earlier in the former Lakers star’s life, their family bond remained strong, and his late daughter Gigi was close with her grandfather Joe, affectionately nicknamed Jellybean by his friends.
The father and daughter had prayed together at Catholic mass at their local church hours before they both died in the tragic helicopter crash, DailyMail.com revealed
The basketball legend and 13-year-old Gigi went to the 7am service at the Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach. They both received Communion.
They then left the church and soon afterwards boarded the S-76 Sikorsky helicopter piloted by Ara Zobyan which was taking them to the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for Gigi’s basketball practice.
The helicopter crashed into a hillside near Calabasas around 9.30am, firefighters responded to a 911 call at 9.47am. Nine people perished on board.