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Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant, father of NBA star Kobe Bryant, stopped in at Yokosuka Naval Base on Wednesday to talk to the Yokosuka Heat children's team.
Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant, father of NBA star Kobe Bryant, stopped in at Yokosuka Naval Base on Wednesday to talk to the Yokosuka Heat children's team. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — It’s hard to grasp the concept of a baby Kobe Bryant.

The 6-foot-6-inch guard plays for the National Basketball Association’s L.A. Lakers. He’s named after the famed Japanese steak.

But his dad, 6-foot-10-inch Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant, had a NBA career himself and knows the All-Star Kobe as the “baby of the family.”

“He has two older sisters,” Bryant said Wednesday at Yokosuka Naval Base. “He was a good kid — he even cleaned his room.”

Joe Bryant, 51, chatted with members of the Yokosuka Heat youth basketball team at the base’s new fitness center at their end-of-season banquet Wednesday.

Military kids have special responsibilities, he told them.

“Kids need to be supportive of their parents, especially when one of them is deployed,” Bryant said. “Sometimes military kids have to grow up faster.”

Bryant moved to Japan in October to coach the newly formed Tokyo Apaches professional team from October to April. Then he heads back to the United States from May to September for his other job as a coach for the WNBA’s L.A. Sparks.

Coaching the Tokyo team put him in contact with referee Willy Adams, who also coaches the Yokosuka Heat. Adams first brought Bryant to base in October, he said.

“I practiced with a couple of local teams, including one from the USS Kitty Hawk,” Bryant said.

Bryant played eight seasons in the NBA, averaging 8.7 points per game in 606 career games, and pro ball in Italy, where Kobe spent part of his childhood.

He still likes court time, Bryant said.

“I’m an old man and I still get out there,” he said.

Bryant said he has a message for everyone: “To have a dream, to have a fantasy and a to have a goal.”

“Once you have that, all it takes is a work ethic,” Bryant said. “If you don’t have homework, then you read ahead in your textbook. You do the next page in your workbook. In school, as in life, you have to do the extra work to get better in anything.”

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