NBA basketball player Bryant Kobe of Los Angeles Lakers smiles during a promotional event at a store in Guangzhou in 2015
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The tragic death of Kobe Bryant in the helicopter crash early in 2020 still hangs heavy over the Lakers’ Team. He was a much-loved star on and off the basketball court and will always be missed. His ephemera, whatever was on offer, when auctioned would always draw a decent price. However, the tragic nature of his death makes these objects memorabilia of a life lived well and are more sought after than ever before. Here we look at some of the items coming up for sale or have recently sold – and considered what this tells us about the man.

The ring for his parents

Twenty years ago, following the title win of 99 – 00, Kobe bought two additional rings so that he could gift one to his mother, Pamela and one to his father, Joe. The rings he bought were identical to that given to the LA Lakers team who won the championship in such style, worn by the likes of Kobe and Shaq as a mark of pride. 

The rings were real gold and encrusted with 40 diamonds. These were massive rings with the words “World Champion” carved into the gold. Without the history and attachment to the Lakers, the raw materials of this ring would mean it was worth a years’ salary for most people. 

Yet, in a recent auction of the ring given to mother, Pamela, the auction asking price was $206,000. Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant’s ring is also about to come up for auction and is expected to see for well over a quarter of a million pounds. The history, the prestige, the raw materials and the raw emotion that surrounds the ring is acting as a supercharge on its value.

If you’re thinking about why the parents would ever want to sell these rings right now – well they aren’t. They sold the rings seven years ago, along with other Kobe memorabilia and raised a total of $280,000. It was done with the full knowledge and acceptance of their son. 

The people who bid and won the rings in this original auction bought wisely, as the value of the rings obviously rocketed with Kobe Bryants’ success and notoriety. 

And there is more

If the idea of buying a diamond-encrusted, gold championship ring from one the greats of the game is too much for you, you might want to try for some of these other items that are coming up for auction. Be aware though – you will still need a healthy bank account.

One of the items up for sale in the cast Kobe wore to mend his broken wrist, which was damaged in pre-season in 1999. Yep. You heard right. The mix of plaster of Paris and bandage that held Kobe’s wrist in place, even in its slightly yellowing state, is up for auction. To help seal its value, there is his signature across the slit open cast. What for the rest of us would be a piece of rubbish to dispose of will raise a spectacular $20000 at auction. 

Why? It might be self-evident to some of you why you would want an old plaster cast. For the rest of us, it might have something to do with the autograph and something to do with the idea that the cast touched the skin of greatness. Plus, let’s face it, if you told your buddy that you owned it, you would feel pretty cool, right?

Card collectibles

If this doesn’t appeal, and you have a little more money to spend, what about bidding on the 1996-7 Topps Chrome Refractors Kobe Bryant rookie card. This card is probably the rarest of all his rookie cards and will set you back a stunning $75000. An example of this card sold for an incredible $33500 in 2017 but this was before the giant’s legend grew. 

If you want something a little more reasonable, then the 1996 Skybox E-X2000 Credentials will cost you $13000 for a card one in top condition. These cards rarely come up for sale though, as the off-white coloured foil border is often damaged.

The ultimate?

Basketball ball with KOBE inscription, red background. Famous basketball player concept. Ray of light on basketball ball.

However, one of the most exciting items that is about to come up for sale is a signed basketball. It not only has the scrawl of Kobe Bryant – but also that of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. You will need to look down the back of the sofa for the cool $25000 that this is likely to raise in the auction.

Can you imagine the sheer awe that you will inspire in your friends when you bounce this ball under their nose? To be fair, you are more likely to stand it behind some serious glass and security precautions. Once you touch a ball that has been in the hands of these greats, you are not going to allow it to pass to anyone else.

What does this tell us about the man?

To be fair, the value of memorabilia doesn’t really capture the man that was Kobe Bryant. It is not surprising that collectables have risen in value since his death. He has merely concreted his reputation as a great – and a much-missed man too. We are certain if his parents knew what was about to transpire, they would have held onto every vestige of memory they could.