Kobe Bryant's family are struggling to deal with helicopter crash tragedy that's left a ‘black hole,’ ex coach says
A CLOSE family friend to Kobe Bryant has said his heart is "black hole" following the passing of the legendary basketball player.
Wayne Slappy told the Daily Mail he called his best friend, Kobe’s father Joe Bryant, after he heard the news the 41-year-old and his daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash.
Slappy, 67, said Joe Bryant didn’t answer the phone when he called yesterday, which was unusual for him.
“I was just finishing training kids up in the Pacific Palisades when I got in the car I got the text message,” he told the Mail.
“Then I started getting phone call after phone call. I tried to call Jellybean [Joe Bryant, Kobe's dad], he didn't answer, and that doesn't happen.”
Slappy said he “just sat in the parking lot at Costco crying for an hour.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to get over this myself,” he said. “I’m raw.”
“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 Kobe loved his children and family, repeating how his father raised him years ago.
“He was doing the same thing his father did for him, for his daughters, to the best of his ability.”
The family friend said Kobe was going to help people through his “ability to speak and express himself and create images.”
He said Kobe was bilingual and could speak Spanish and Italian: “He could talk to you about any subject and have a conversation that was intelligent about it.”
Slappy explained how close the Bryant family is, and said Kobe’s daughter Gianna, or Gigi, “wanted to try to be similar to her dad in his greatness, in some way.”
He said Kobe had disputes with his parents, but said “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.”
“Kobe was starting to look so much more like him as he was getting older,” Slappy said of Joe Bryant.
Slappy added: “He was an inspiration that led by example. He wouldn't leave the gym before he made a thousand shots. Not took a thousand, made a thousand. Think about that.”
“He was intense, no question about it. Competitive too. He'd compete in anything. If there was a chewing gum competition he'd outchew you.”
“He was a consummate competitor, that's why he became so great.”
Slappy described Kobe as an “inimitable human being.”
“When I saw him get hurt, playing with a bad hand. He said 'I'll just shoot with my left.' How many people can do that? That takes unbelievable practice, and to do that in an NBA game? I mean come on man.”
Kobe and his daughter were among nine total people who died in the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California yesterday morning, northwest of Los Angeles.
The group was headed to Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.
The chopper was flying low in fog and ultimately crashed into a steep hillside around 9.45am.
The cause of the accident is unclear but authorities, including the local sheriff’s office, the National Transportation Safety Board and Lockheed Martin, are investigating.
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