Kobe Bryant is in a court battle to try to keep his mother from auctioning off mementoes from his high-school days in Pennsylvania and his early years with the Los Angeles Lakers.
A New Jersey auction house filed a lawsuit in a US District Court on Thursday for the right to sell the stuff after the National Basketball Association star’s lawyers wrote the firm telling it to cancel a planned auction next month.
The disagreement is a high-value, high-profile version of a question many families face: Can Mom get rid of the stuff a grown child left at home?
In this case, the 900 mementoes happen to be worth upward of US$1.5 million.
Among the first 100 or so items Pamela Bryant intends to sell: the NBA star’s jerseys, practice gear and sweatsuits from Lower Merion High School; varsity letters; a trophy for being the outstanding player at the 1995 Adidas ABCD basketball camp; and a signed basketball from the 2000 NBA championship game.
And then there are rings, for the 1996 Pennsylvania high-school championship, a pair that the Lakers made for Bryant’s parents for the 2000 NBA championship and one from the 1998 NBA All-Star game.
According to court filings, Pamela Bryant struck a deal in January with Goldin Auctions in Berlin, New Jersey, which earlier this year sold a rare Honus Wagner baseball card for a record US$2.1 million.
She got US$450,000 up front, which she intended to use for a new home in Nevada.
In its court filings, Goldin says Pamela Bryant told the auction house that she asked her son five years ago what he wanted to do with the items in her home.
“Kobe Bryant indicated to Pamela Bryant that the items belonged to her and that he had no interest in them,” the auction house’s attorneys wrote.
So she put them in a US$1,500-per-month New Jersey storage unit.
The challenge came on Tuesday when Goldin sent a news release announcing the auction. By day’s end, Kobe Bryant’s lawyer had sent a cease-and-desist letter telling the auction house to call off the sale and return the items to him.
Kenneth Goldin, owner of the auction house, says he cannot cancel the auction because he has already advanced US$450,000 to Bryant’s mother and put money into advertising the auction.
Kobe Bryant’s lawyer Mark Campbell said in a statement: “Mr. Bryant’s personal property has ended up in the possession of someone who does not lawfully own it. We look forward to resolving this legal matter through the legal system.”
Bryant has had a sometimes icy relationship with his mother and father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, a former pro basketball player who is now coaching in Thailand.