Kobe Bryant doesn't want mother to sell his past

Goldin Auctions' website showcases "The Bryant Collection" of Kobe jerseys, trophies, more.
Goldin Auctions' website showcases "The Bryant Collection" of Kobe jerseys, trophies, more.
Posted: May 04, 2013

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.

That's when the Los Angeles Lakers shooting star (and Lower Merion High School basketball phenomenon) put the brakes on the idea, sending a cease-and-desist letter to the auctioneer, Goldin Auctions L.L.C. of West Berlin.

The 42 items of merchandise, which include several Lower Merion uniforms worn by the player and two 2000 Lakers Championship rings designed for his parents, were to go up for auction in June, each authenticated as genuine by Pamela Bryant.

In a tale of what can happen when adult children move on but leave behind their "treasures," Goldin filed suit asking the judge to clarify ownership of the memorabilia and clear the way for the auction.

"A team-issued championship ring is among the most treasured of all sports collectibles and the opportunity to own one from an active player as significant as Kobe Bryant is rare," company founder Ken Goldin said in an April 30 news release announcing the auction of the memorabilia.

"Normally, items like these can only be viewed in a museum or the Hall of Fame," he said. "We are honored to be able to make these offerings to collectors around the world."

Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles lawyer, Mark Campbell of Loeb & Loeb L.L.P., was considerably less communicative. "Mr. Bryant's personal property has ended up in the possession of someone who does not lawfully own it," the law firm said in an e-mailed statement.

"We look forward to resolving this legal matter through the legal system. There will be no further comment at this time."

According to the lawsuit, Pamela Bryant had been storing some of her son's memorabilia for at least 15 years - his high school uniform shorts and jerseys date back to 1994 and there's even a Sonny Hill League Future Stars Champion trophy from 1992, when he was still in middle school.

Seven or eight years ago, well after Kobe had gotten married, Pamela Bryant asked her son's wife, Vanessa, if she wanted the items. She said no - those items belonged to the past, according to the suit.

And so, five years ago, the lawsuit says, Pamela Bryant packed up the jerseys, the championship rings, and award plaques, spending $1,500 a month to store and insure them in West Berlin.

"Pamela Bryant indicated to Ken Goldin that Kobe Bryant has never demanded the return of any of the items, nor were they in any way taken from [him] without his permission," the suit says.

Mother and son haven't always been close. According to reports, Kobe Bryant's parents, who are African American, didn't attend his wedding because they thought at 21 he was too young and because his wife is not black. But like most disapproving parents, they came around with the birth of a grandchild, a girl.

Filed 10 days before Mother's Day, the lawsuit does not detail how mother and son are getting along these days.

According to the lawsuit, Pamela Bryant has received a pre-auction consigning fee of $450,000 and has used it to buy a house.

It's not clear whether she and her husband still own their Modern house in the Greenhill Farms neighborhood, just on the Philadelphia side of City Avenue from Lower Merion.

The lawsuit says that after Goldin received Kobe Bryant's cease-and-desist letter, he called Pamela Bryant, who was in Thailand. Her husband, Joseph "Jellybean" Bryant, a former 76ers player and La Salle University basketball coach, now coaches a Thai team.

She assured Goldin, the suit says, that she was the legal owner of the items and that Goldin should go ahead with the auction. Goldin is being represented by Jeffrey A. Cohen and Rachel E. Licausi of Flaster Greenberg P.C. in Cherry Hill. Goldin declined to comment.

Kobe Bryant's legal response must be submitted by Wednesday and a hearing was set before U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb in Camden on May 20 at 11 a.m.

Kobe Bryant did not respond to a Twitter request seeking comment.


Contact Jane Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing


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