LeBron’s High-School Kobe Sneakers Hit Fractional Auction Block

Kurt Badenhausen
·3 min read

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have been the NBA’s two most dominant stars over the past 20 years, and now a piece of memorabilia that links the two icons will be available to fans. Fractional ownership platform Rally will offer shares of a pair of James’ high school game-worn sneakers that were a gift from Bryant, for as little as $10 in late spring or early summer.

Bryant gave the patriotic-themed “USA” Kobe Twos to James during his junior year in high school, at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, five months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The future four-time NBA MVP laced up the Adidas-branded high-tops for a much-hyped nationally televised game against Oak Hill Academy and future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony. The shoes were originally purchased privately by an individual in Akron before Rally purchased them for $156,000 last month at a public auction.

“Anytime we approach any new offering or any new asset, it has to meet a very specific set of criteria,” says Rally co-founder and chief product officer Rob Petrozzo. “For us, this hit all of them.”

Rally launched in late 2016 with a focus on fractional ownership in classic automobiles. It moved into rare wines, watches, and recently has ramped up its sports offerings. Rally’s biggest sports purchase was $631,000 for a signed piece of the Staples Center floor for Bryant’s last home game. That asset launches on the platform Friday with 100,000 shares available at $8 each.

Rally’s user base of more than 200,000 is a collection of both fans and investors, with an average age of 28. The number of new investors joining the platform is doubling every month, and the typical investor holds shares in four to five items, according to Rally. Each offering has its own value and share price. After a 90-day lockup, the asset opens for bid/ask trading on the Rally platform through a registered broker-dealer.

There are now more than 100 assets actively trading on the platform, with another 100-plus still in the 90-day lockup or not yet “IPO’d.” More shares traded on the Rally platform in January than the entire fourth quarter of 2020. Petrozzo says there will be 17,000 to 18,000 shares of the “USA” Kobe Twos issued.

There have been 10 “exits” off the platform over the past 12 months, where an unsolicited buyout offer was approved by shareholders. Most of the buyouts came less than two months after the offering. They included a 79% gain on a 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan card and a 106% jump for a rookie card of soccer great Pele. Petrozzo says game-worn memorabilia has been on fire. Shares in a pair of Zion Williamson Adidas sneakers from high school are up 93% over the past year, while a pair of signed Jordan IIIs have nearly tripled in value.

Rally has raised $27 million in funding, including $17 million in a Series B round last year that featured Porsche Ventures, Jim Pallotta’s investment firm Raptor Group and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Porsche has a clear car connection, while Ohanian said at the time that he had been investing in collectibles on Rally for close to two years.

Rally has competition in the fractional ownership market, as sports memorabilia has boomed during the pandemic. The lack of games and nostalgia are oft-cited for rising prices, but it also functions as an alternative asset investment class. Collectable launched in September with an offering of shares in a mint 1953 Mickey Mantle Topps card. The company flipped a 1980 Topps card featuring NBA legends Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Julius Erving in January that doubled the money for investors in the initial offering in October.

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