Kobe Bryant’s mother Pamela is doing her best to auction her son’s basketball memorabilia, including his signature #24 jersey from his freshman year at Lower Merion High School — the only other time he wore the number that inevitably will hang in the rafters of the Staples Center. Only one problem: Kobe filed paperwork with the U.S. District Court for the District of N.J. this week in which he and his wife Vanessa both declare that Pamela does not have permission to do so … and they want his memorabilia with them in Los Angeles. Here’s the chronology of events thus far (all dates (2013):
- January 2: Pamela signs a Consignment Agreement with Goldin Auctions, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company that runs the majority of its business out of Berlin, NJ. In the agreement, Pamela guarantees as consignor that she is the sole owner of all consigned items and warrants she has full and clear title to all of the items in question, amounting to an estimated value of $1.5 million.
- January 3: Goldin Auctions advances $450,000 to Pamela, which she has since spent on a house in Nevada.
- April 30: Goldin Auctions issues a press release titled “Goldin Auctions Presents: The Kobe Bryant Collection” for an auction in June featuring over 100 unique items from Kobe’s childhood, high school career and entry into the NBA.
- April 30: Kobe’s attorney promptly sends a cease and desist letter to Goldin Auctions, (1) representing that the auction items are Kobe’s property and no one else has any rights to them, (2) demanding the immediate return of the Kobe’s personal property, and (3) discontinuing the scheduled June auction.
- May 2: having confirmed with Pamela that she is the sole owner of the property at issue, Goldin Auctions files an action for declaratory judgment that Goldin Auctions has legal ownership of the memorabilia pursuant to the consignment agreement with Pamela, and seeks temporary and preliminary injunctive relief in order to move forward with the auction.
- May 8: Kobe and his wife file declarations in which they affirm that Kobe is the rightful owner of the property and have asked for the return of the property numerous times from Pamela. They even point out that some of the items were last seen in their own house in Los Angeles and have no idea how they ended up back in Philadelphia.
My personal favorite part of this, however, is one of Kobe’s opening recitals to his declaration, in comparison with that of his mother …
“I am a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers. Since I was selected in the first round of the 1996 National Basketball Association (“NBA”) draft I have earned numerous accolades including, among many other things, 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player awards, an NBA Most Valuable Player award, two NBA scoring titles, and I have been selected to the NBA All-Star team 15 times. I am also the NBA’s fourth all-time scoring leader.”
“I am an adult individual and the mother of Kobe Bryant.”
Hey ma … WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?? While it may seem arrogant to some, this dichotomy certainly sets the stage for the arguments that will undoubtedly be made by Kobe’s attorney as this case continues, so it is flat-out good lawyerin’!
For those interested in the legal analysis, Pamela’s attorney cites US v. Bell in putting forth that the court must evaluate four factors in granting preliminary relief: “(1) whether the movant has shown a reasonable probability of success on the merits; (2) whether the movant will be irreparably injured by denial of the relief; (3) whether granting preliminary relief will result in even greater harm to the nonmoving party; and (4) whether granting the preliminary relief will be in the public interest.” Pamela’s motion asserts that Kobe abandoned the property by ignoring it for 15 years, and her possession of it during that time leaves her with proper title to it. Her entire argument revolves around the idea that Kobe never asked for the property, whereas Kobe and Vanessa recall history differently and declare that they had asked for the items numerous times over the years.
This would seem to come down to a matter of “he said, she said” – such issues are often left to be decided at trial, which would seem to make a preliminary injunction slightly premature. Not to mention, (1) Goldin Auctions’ argument that they have a “probability of success” is based solely on Pamela’s word that she owns the property, (2) Goldin’s ability to reschedule the auction likely means they will not be irreparably injured, (3) moving forward with the auction would mean Kobe could not reclaim his property unless he were to pay for it, and (4) as for public interest, returning a high school trophy case to the man who earned it instead of the mother who is trying to pawn it off would hardly set poor precedent for auction practice. Without knowing the entire depth of family history and basing this solely off items of public record with federal court best of luck to Kobe!