Lot of 100 Kobe Bryant-signed basketballs to sell in single auction

A 17-year-old Bryant signed the balls as part of a $10,000 deal

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The collection of Kobe Bryant-signed balls has been kept in storage for two decades. (Credit: Heritage Auctions)

A single lot of 100 Kobe Bryant-signed basketballs is up for auction at Heritage with an estimate of $250,000 and up — or $2,500 per ball.

While the sheer volume of the collection is notable in its own right, the circumstances surrounding its origin are even more fascinating.

Founded by Ken Goldin and his father, Paul, sports memorabilia company The Score Board offered then 17-year-old Kobe Bryant a deal for autographs and appearances. After a counteroffer and various disputes, a $10,000 deal was reached.

Bryant was to receive $2 per autograph after the first 500 signed.

When The Score Board filed for bankruptcy, there was a legal dispute as to whether the contract was valid. The judge ruled it was, and most of the company’s assets were sold to a company called Oxxford Express.

Bryant then sued Oxxford Express and the two eventually worked out a confidential settlement.

Bryant ultimately signed a large quantity of memorabilia for the company, including the 100 basketballs offered at Heritage.

“I liked athletes to sign their full name, so in all my contracts at the time, I wrote that they had to sign their full name and I had them attaching an example to the contract, which is why these autographs are signed with his full name “Kobe Bryant,” whereas later autographs only had Kobe 8 or something similar,” said Former exec at The Scoreboard and Goldin Auctions CEO Ken Goldin.

That's how these signatures are able to be attributed to the early years of Bryant’s career, during which time Bryant signed his full name. These early career signings command a premium. Each signature was also completed under the supervision of a PSA/DNA representative.

The current consignor, who acquired the balls after the liquidation, kept them in a storage facility for around two decades before deciding to sell them with Heritage.

For Heritage, the massive collection is a first.

"This is, by far, the most basketballs we have ever offered in one lot," Heritage Auctions consignment director Jason Simonds told cllct. "When I heard that a collector had these basketballs and the story behind how he got them, I couldn’t believe it. This is a truly incredible collection."

The decision to sell the 100 balls collectively, rather than spaced out over time, is an interesting choice considering the assumed bulk discount associated with a collection of this size.

"We have never offered anything like this before at Heritage Auctions," Simonds said. "The logistics of selling this many basketballs was a new challenge for us."

The quantity also could severely limit the pool of potential buyers. Whereas there are thousands of collectors who might be interested in a single Bryant-signed ball, the addressable market for 100 balls is quite different.

The buyer would likely need to be the operator of a large-scale memorabilia business, capable of taking on inventory and selling over the course of years, or even a company such as Fanatics, which would have the operational capacity in addition to more creative possibilities such as cutting up balls and creating limited-edition embedded cards.

Prices for Bryant memorabilia have surged in the aftermath of his 2020 death. A full name signed ball sold for around $250 in 2012. By June 2022, balls were selling for more than $3,500.

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct.