A rare Kobe Bryant jersey from the basketball legend’s sole MVP season is up for auction, and it could fetch up to $7 million.
During the 2008 NBA playoffs, an iconic photo of Bryant grabbing his jersey after clinching a 14-point lead against the Denver Nuggets was captured and recreated countless times.
Its likeness can be found on murals throughout Los Angeles and the United States, and it is frequently reprinted on Lakers memorabilia. It has become a symbol of the basketball star’s determination and passion.
Sotheby’s is auctioning off the jersey in that image this week, with an estimated market value of $5-7 million – the most valuable Bryant jersey ever sold at auction, according to the auction house.
According to the NBA, Bryant averaged nearly 28.3 points per game and scored 2323 points during the 2007-2008 regular season.
According to Sotheby’s, the jersey up for auction is the only one he wore during the 2008 playoffs, when he led the Lakers to the NBA finals for the first time since Shaquille O’Neal was traded.
The jersey is displayed front and centre in the auction house’s exhibit, alongside other Bryant memorabilia and photography of murals and paintings of the Lakers star.
“This image is actually insanely pervasive,” said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s vice president and head of streetwear and modern collectibles.
“He had so much passion, and if you really look around this exhibit, you’ll see this image that’s associated with him – grabbing his shirt, in kind of elation,” Wachter told CNN.
The auction will take place shortly after the three-year anniversary of Bryant’s death, which occurred in January 2020 when he and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria Onore Bryant were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
“We always remember his legacy,” Wachter told CNN. “He meant a lot to a lot of different people.”
Breaking the record?
Sotheby’s received a $4.5 million bid within an hour of the auction’s start, according to a Sotheby’s representative. If confirmed, it would be the most expensive Bryant jersey ever purchased.
According to Sotheby’s, the previous record was set by a basketball jersey from Bryant’s 1996-1997 season, which sold for $3.7 million in 2021.
Bryant won five NBA championships, four NBA All-Star Game MVP awards, two NBA Finals MVPs, and two Olympic gold medals during his career. He was an 18-time All-Star known for his scoring prowess and championship pedigree.
But Bryant’s influence extended beyond the court, and as Wachter put it, “he touches people beyond the scope of basketball.”
“He doesn’t just touch athletes; he touches executives and businessmen who want to be the best version of themselves,” he said, adding that his “constant quest to be the best version of yourself” encapsulates Bryant’s self-labeled philosophy of the “Mamba Mentality.”
“When you consider his legacy, part of what he left the world was his mentality. And I think that’s what makes Kobe so special, and what makes this jersey so special,” Wachter added.
Bryant’s jersey will be accompanied by a collection of photos, artwork, books, and other mementos. The auction will take place from February 2 to February 9.
During the first week of February, it will also be on display at Sotheby’s New York.