Sotheby’s is continuing its strong position in the sports memorabilia market with a unique auction.
The auction house unveiled the sale of the most valuable Kobe Bryant game-worn jersey, estimated to sell for between $5 million and $7 million, will take place Feb. 2 to 9.
The Los Angeles Lakers number 24 jersey is from the late NBA star’s 2007-08 season, his sole MVP season. One of Bryant’s most iconic images is of him wearing the jersey during game two of the Western Conference First Round series in 2008, where he was photographed celebrating after achieving a three-pointer with just 5 minutes and 22 seconds on the clock in the fourth quarter.
“The jersey is tied to perhaps the most iconic imagery of Kobe,” said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s head of streetwear and modern collectibles. “In game two of the Western Conference first round, Kobe sent a three pointer and sort of did this celebration and all of these images were taken. The imagery associated with that moment has taken on a life of its own. Notably, the most visited and most famous Kobe mural in Los Angeles painted by Jonas Never features this jersey. As we began a search around the world, we were seeing this jersey in China and Australia. There are murals all over the world that feature this imagery.”
Bryant wore the jersey, which is also signed, for 25 games during the eight-month season. During the season, Bryant scored 645 points over six playoff games, 14 regular games and five pre-season games.
Wachter explained that the jersey’s heavy-worn element adds to the item’s uniqueness and rarity.
“One thing that’s really interesting is there’s this element of heavy wear,” he said. “So many jerseys are worn for a game or a half. When you’re first dealing with items that for whatever reason are reworn and reworn, they start to get into another level of rarity and in that sense it’s very unique because it’s so heavily worn and it’s worn for so many moments.”
Bryant’s Lakers jersey will be sold during Sotheby’s Zenith Part I online auction, which is a two-part series that celebrates athletes such as Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer and others.
The auction is Sotheby’s second major sale in the sports memorabilia market this year. Sotheby’s is kicking off the year with an auction of LeBron James’ 2013 NBA Finals Miami Heat jersey later this month, which is expected to sell for between $3 million and $5 million.
Both sales come after Sotheby’s saw record interest in the sports memorabilia market last year. The auction house had a record-breaking sale of Michael Jordan’s game-worn 1998 NBA Final jersey, which sold for $10.1 million in September. Sotheby’s also sold Argentinian soccer player Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey previously for $9.3 million.
Wachter explained that because of Bryant’s career and legacy, he believes there will be high interest in the upcoming auction.
“A lot of people in all walks of life are really inspired by Kobe,” he said. “He is somebody that transcends the sport of basketball for other athletes and other business executives who want to try and emulate his ‘mamba mentality.’”