The jersey worn by American basketball legend Kobe Bryant – who died three years ago in a tragic helicopter crash – was sold at auction on Thursday for $5.8 million.
The sale by Sotheby’s in New York set a new record for any Bryant item at auction, but came in at a pre-sale estimate of $7 million.
The price was more than the previous high of $3.7 million paid for a jersey worn by the Los Angeles Lakers titans, who won five NBA titles and two Olympic gold medals.
Game-worn sports memorabilia is big business.
Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which sold for $10.1 million in September 2022, is currently the most valuable such item.
Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey was sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s in London last year.
Bryant’s iconic yellow-and-purple number 24 jersey, worn by the legendary Laker in 25 games during the 2007-2008 season, was put up for sale by an anonymous owner, making Bryant the only NBA MVP.
During one of those appearances – a postseason game against the Denver Nuggets on April 23, 2008 – photographers captured celebrities celebrating Bryant after a successful three-point shot, clutching his jersey and letting out a primal scream.
Since then, the image has been placed on walls by street artists around the world, most notably in Los Angeles, where Bryant played his entire professional career.
The last time this jersey was auctioned, in 2013, it only fetched $18,678.
Years passed before Bryant’s fatal helicopter crash, after which the April 2008 celebration became “an image that galvanized the public,” Sotheby’s said.