His high school uniforms are among more than 50 items listed for June auction in an April 30 announcement by Goldin Auctions L.L.C. in Berlin. The items, the announcement said, were provided by Bryant's mother and had been left at the family's home in the Philadelphia area.
Kobe Bryant's lawyers immediately sent a cease-and-desist letter to stop the auction.
On May 2, Goldin filed a lawsuit in federal court in Camden asking Kobe Bryant to explain why the auction shouldn't go ahead, contending it was Pamela Bryant's right to sell the memorabilia.
"Pamela Bryant indicated to [owner] Ken Goldin that Kobe Bryant has never demanded the return of any of the items," the suit says, "nor were they in any way taken from him without his permission."
The suit says pulling the Bryant items from the lineup would hurt the sale prospects of $1.5 million worth of other people's merchandise also due to go on the block the same day. While the legal papers provide no value placed on Bryant's memorabilia, an auction expert said it could command as much as $1 million.
On the day the suit was filed, Kobe Bryant says in his response, he received a call from his mother.
"I confronted her about her false statement that I had given my memorabilia to her," he wrote.
"I said to her, 'Mom, you know I never told you that you could have the memorabilia.'
"Her response was, 'Yes, but you never said you wanted it either.' Of course, this is untrue, since my wife and I requested that she return my memorabilia several years earlier."
His response also set up a mystery: How did the Teen Choice Award Surfboard end up at the auction house?
It "was last seen by me in my personal residence. I do not know how my mother or Goldin obtained possession of this award," he wrote, "but it was without my permission."
Bryant says the items "have tremendous sentimental value for me, and I desire to hand down my well-earned memorabilia to my children."
Bryant's wife, Vanessa, also filed papers. She says the couple asked for the memorabilia several years ago when visiting the family home.
"Pamela Bryant agreed to return Kobe's property, but stated that she had placed it all in storage because she had converted Kobe's old bedroom into a toy room for our nieces," Vanessa Bryant wrote.
The Goldin lawsuit says Pamela Bryant was paying $1,500 a month to insure and store the memorabilia in West Berlin. According to the suit, she has received a pre-auction consigning fee of $450,000 and has used it to buy a house.
Kobe and Vanessa Bryant's responses quote case law about when property can be considered abandoned after a child leaves home and also argues that the case should not be tried in New Jersey. Lawyers for both sides will get to make their cases May 20 in Camden before U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb.
It's not clear whether Bryant's parents still own their home in Philadelphia's Greenhill Farms neighborhood just off City Avenue. His father, Joseph "Jellybean" Bryant, a former 76ers player and La Salle University basketball coach, now coaches a team in Thailand.
Contact Jane Von Bergen at email@example.com or 215-854-2769, or follow on Twitter @JaneVonBergen.
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