For hardcore NBA fans August 24 marks a very important date in their calendar, Kobe Bryant Day. It’s a day where they pay tribute to the late star and his daughter Gianna, who tragically lost their lives in a helicopter crash in January 2020. For collectors it means much more.
- August 23 and August 24 both hold considerable significance when it comes to Kobe. The former being his birthday and the latter being a combination of his two playing numbers (8 & 24).
- Kobe Bryant merchandise and memorabilia attracts around 2,000 monthly hits on eBay in Australia alone. Kobe Bryant Day is likely to significantly boost that number.
- Anything associated with the late player’s name – from collector cards to ticket stubs – often sells for tens of thousands of dollars.
- Superfans pay in excess of $30,000 for rare Kobe Bryant collector cards.
It’s been more than three years since NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragically died in a helicopter accident. However, on the first annual Kobe Bryant Day, the late basketballer couldn’t be more popular, with basketball fans from across the globe trying to capture a piece of Bryant’s legacy.
For superfans like Josh Nicholls collecting Kobe Bryant memorabilia goes beyond the value of his extensive LA Lakers and Bryant collection. It’s about his love and admiration of the game, Bryant and what he stood for.
“I guess my so much of my life my basketball journey has been because of Kobe,” says Nicolls, who is an NBA Division One referee. “I don’t think I would have got to where I am now without his influence. I’m now lucky enough to run around the court with the Opals and the Boomers.”
Nicholls, who managed to meet the NBA star just months before his death, has an extensive LA Lakers and Kobe Bryant collection, but his most valuable item is a ticket stub from a game where Bryant “singlehandedly outscored the Dallas Mavericks in three quarters” – just one of two signed by the late athlete and the only one with an inscription.
“I bought it before the collectibles boom, pre-covid, for about $3,000. I’ve seen other tickets to other Kobe milestone games, signed by him, in a range from $30,000 to $40,000,” he told Forbes Australia.
Top eBay purchases
- Trading Card: The most expensive Kobe Bryant trading card sold on eBay Australia was a signed ‘2007/2008 UD Exquisite Dual Logoman Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan’ card. The card sold for $34,867.
- Jersey: A Kobe Bryant signed Black Mamba Lakers jersey sold for $15,120 on eBay Australia.
- Sneakers: The most expensive Kobe Bryant shoes sold on eBay Australia were a signed pair of Nike sneakers, which sold for $10,027.
Nicholls – who clearly remembers watching his first NBA game: game four of the 2000 NBA finals from his grandparent’s living room – says his love for the Lakers and Bryant has grown over the past 23 years.
“From meeting him I would say there are two sides to him. The intense figure on the court…and his ability to make his opponents want to reconsider their life choices,” Nicholls says.
“Off the court he was he was very humbled by his fans. He really appreciated the love that all the fans gave him. He used to say that he would never take a night off, because what if one of his fans had saved up all their pocket money and this was the game they finally made it to. He was that kind of person.”
For the serious collectors
eBay Australia has 2,000 searches every month for Kobe Bryant. However, that figure is likely to increase this month due to Kobe Bryant Day, eBay Head of Sneakers & Collectibles at eBay Australia & New Zealand Alaister Low.
Low, who has an extensive collection of memorabilia and sneakers himself, says there’s something special about Kobe Bryant and what he stood for that means his “legacy lives on” through his fans.
“We get about 2,000 searches a month for Kobe and that’s likely to increase around this time – which really says something about his legacy, not only in basketball, but also his contribution to culture and his impact on so many lives,” Low told Forbes Australia.
Low says anything associated with Bryant, from sneakers and jerseys to ticket stubs and trading cards “people are instantly interested in”.
“I think the biggest reason [for collecting] is they want a piece of Kobe Bryant, they want to feel closer to him as a person and they want to be part of what he stood for,” Low says.
The legacy of Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was born August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia to former NBA player Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. Bryant began playing basketball at the age of three and when he was six, his father retired from the NBA and moved his family to Italy to continue playing professional basketball at a lower level.
Bryant returned to the US for his high school years, where he continued to build his own basketball skills, attracting the attention of talent scouts. At the age of 17 he was recruited directly into the NBA – becoming one of only a handful of students to do so. The move was a controversial one, not only because it was an unusual pathway, but because Bryant’s basketball skills and his high SAT scores meant he could have reportedly had the choice of attending any American university he chose. Instead, he was signed with the Los Angeles Lakers after being picked up and traded by the Charlotte Hornets.
Bryant played a total of 20 seasons with the Lakers. His career averages were 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists in 1,346 regular season games. He won one MVP Award and played 18 All-Star Games. Bryant played basketball for the US Olympics team in Beijing and London respectively, winning gold each time. In November 2015 Bryant announced that after the ’15-’16 season, he would retire from the NBA, acknowledging that after years of playing and injuries, his body had withstood all that it could.
Outside of basketball Bryant was an avid philanthropist. Throughout his career, Bryant granted terminally ill children over 250 wishes through the Make a Wish Foundation, raised more than $US81 million for research through Stand Up to Cancer. He was named an honorary ambassador of After-School All-Stars – an initiative started by the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation to provide comprehensive services to homeless children in LA.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020, while travelling to a basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks.