Hobby Musings: Remembering Kobe Bryant – Like the rest of the world, I was stunned by the sudden death of Kobe Bryant last week. I’ve dealt with athlete deaths on one level or another for the past several years, but this one was definitely different. I still catch myself wondering sometimes if it really happened.
Kobe’s death has meant a lot of things to a lot of people. The amount of tributes and remembrances have been nothing short of amazing. This has been no different in the sports memorabilia world as several people have shared their memories of Kobe and stories of when they were able to meet him.
I never had the chance to meet Kobe, but I do have two trading card and memorabilia stories related to him that I’d like to share. The first is from a video feature that I worked on a number of years ago about director Penny Marshall. Known for directing the film “A League of Their Own,” Marshall was also an avid sports memorabilia collector. One of the items in her vast collection was a signed Kobe Bryant basketball. Marshall had acquired it at a charity auction with a COA. One time, Kobe came over to her house, and she showed him the basketball. Kobe examined it and told a stunned Marshall that the signature on the ball was in fact a fake. Kobe was a good sport about it though. He signed the other side of the ball, giving Marshall a signed basketball with one fake autograph and one real autograph.
My other story relates to my own pursuit of Kobe’s autograph. I’m not a huge basketball fan and don’t do a lot of basketball card collecting. However, Kobe was one of a small group of basketball player autographs I felt I had to have in my collection.
My chance to get Kobe’s autograph came out of the blue at the 2014 National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. At the show, I had acquired some cards that a fellow collector very much wanted. Asked what I wanted in trade for them, I replied that I was hoping for a Kobe Bryant autograph. Not really expecting the answer to be yes, I was surprised when he said that would work and that he would get me the Kobe later in the day. Sure enough, later that night, I received a nice on-card Kobe autograph with a piece of jersey on it as well. Needless to say, I was pretty happy to get the card.
To me, that story has always represented one of my favorite parts of the hobby. It gave me the chance to meet a fellow collector and pull off a trade where both sides ended up happy. If I’m being completely honest, I got the better end of the trade at the time, and I think the other collector knew it too. However, he was determined to get the cards I had, and we got it done. I’m fairly certain I would have acquired a Kobe autograph at some point along the way if I hadn’t then. Being able to get it the way I did instead of outright buying it makes the card all the more special and meaningful to me.
Talking with Rob Bertrand, co-host of Go GTS Live, he brought up an interesting point about Bryant in that his rookie cards are unlike what we see today. When Kobe came into the league in the mid-1990s, multiple card companies had NBA licenses. As such, Kobe has a number of rookie cards from different manufacturers.
Topps and Upper Deck each had Kobe rookie cards from its various products. Scoreboard also did early Kobe cards and even companies like Skybox were in on the action. Seeing all of the different rookies and shots of a young Kobe brought back a wave of nostalgia and a few memories. I have to admit I looked for my Kobe auto a day or two ago, and I have no doubt that several collectors have done the same thing over the past week for one reason or another.
From a memorabilia standpoint, there’s no telling what Kobe’s passing will mean long term. He was such an important part of the Panini family. I’m curious to see if they plan anything in tribute in addition to what they’ve done already. His hobby values for top rookie cards and autographs have skyrocketed to astronomical prices. While I think they’ll settle down eventually, the suddenness of his passing likely makes it that the values will remain high as the years go on. If you are someone who is trying to get Kobe memorabilia now, especially autographs, please be careful as a number of fakes have flooded the market. Like any other collecting endeavor, it helps to do some research ahead of time and know what you’re looking for.
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.
Hobby Musings: Remembering Kobe Bryant
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