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Ball Don't Lie

Kobe Bryant involved in lawsuit with mom over planned auction of $1.5M worth of memorabilia

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Kobe Bryant apparently doesn't want his mom to sell his stuff. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA/Getty Images)

When news circulated earlier this week that New Jersey-based Goldin Auctions was about to open bidding on a cache of heretofore unavailable Kobe Bryant memorabilia — rare game-worn jerseys, high school trophies and awards, rings commemorating a slew of achievements and more — it seemed like a cool opportunity for collectors. I mean, who wouldn't want to shell out a few shekels bidding on the surfboard Kobe won at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards? That's right: Nobody. Everyone wants those things.

As it turns out, though, it's unlikely that you're going to get your chance to bid on any of the stuff in that 100-plus-item lot — because apparently, Kobe didn't think his mom would actually get rid of it all, and he's not OK with selling it off. From Jane M. Von Bergen of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

For years, Pamela Bryant kept asking her son: Do you still want all this stuff that I'm keeping for you — your old basketball jerseys, your sports awards, your high school trophies?

And for years, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Camden on Thursday, the son, now 34, was content to let it all sit around at the house.

Until ...

Until Pamela Bryant, Kobe Bryant's mother, wanted to auction it off for an expected $1.5 million so she could use the money to buy a house in Nevada.

A-ha. More from Geoff Mulvihill of The Associated Press:

According to court filings, Pamela Bryant struck a deal in January with Goldin Auctions in Berlin, N.J., which earlier this year sold a rare Honus Wagner baseball card for a record $2.1 million. [...]

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 that were 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 $1,500-per-month New Jersey storage unit.

Apparently, Kobe changed his mind — after auction-house owner Kenneth Goldin began publicizing the upcoming auction earlier this week, Kobe's lawyers sent him a cease-and-desist letter. That didn't sit too well with Goldin, who's already shelled out a $450,000 advance that Pamela Bryant reportedly intended to put toward the purchase of that new home, and responded by filing suit in U.S. District Court in Camden, N.J. on Thursday to allow the sale to proceed as scheduled.

"Mr. Bryant's personal property has ended up in the possession of someone who does not lawfully own it," his lawyer, Mark Campbell, said in a statement. "We look forward to resolving this legal matter through the legal system. There will be no further comment at this time."

It sure seems like there's more to this story than meets the eye. As Von Bergen notes in her Inquirer story, relations between Kobe and his parents haven't always been quite so sunny, and ESPN reported Friday that the auction came in kind of a weird way:

A source told ESPN that Kobe Bryant offered to pay his mother up $250,000 toward a home she wanted.

She refused, saying she wanted $450,000. When Kobe Bryant turned her down, the source said that unbeknownst to Kobe Bryant she struck a deal to get the $450,000 advanced through the auction company.

The source said Kobe Bryant was unaware that his memorabilia was being auctioned until hours before the auction company released the news of the sale.

More on the weirdness, from Sarah Flanigan of Yahoo!'s omg! blog:

[...] a source close to the Lakers player told "omg! Insider" co-anchor Kevin Frazier that the real reason behind the auction is a family dispute over a second home that his mother wants to purchase: "Bryant has given his parent millions of dollars in financial assistance throughout his 17 year career. They decided to sell his high school memorabillia without his consent to purchase an additional home." According to the source, when Kobe balked at buying a larger home than initially agreed upon, his mother struck the deal to sell his memorabilia.

Where this goes from here remains to be seen — Kobe's lawyers have until Wednesday to respond to Goldin's filing, and a hearing on the matter has been scheduled for May 20 — but for now, it looks like Kobe's treasures will remain off limits. Kind of a bummer for those of us who are unlikely to ever win a Kids' Choice Award of our own.

Also: Mother's Day dinner might be a little rough. Yikes.

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