By Alicia Powell
(Reuters) – Basketball legend Kobe Bryant’s autograph, on a hardwood section of the court where he played his last game, is on the auction block online and expected to fetch at least $500,000 next week.
The four-panel floor piece, measuring 4 feet by 8 feet (1.2 by 2.4 meters), is emblazoned with a huge “8,” one of two numbers Bryant wore during a sensational 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. It graced one end of the National Basketball Association court for the game on April 13, 2016, balancing a section with his other jersey number “24” at the other end.
“This is really among the most unique and inspiring pieces we’ve ever had,” said Dan Imler, vice president of direct sales and consignments for Heritage Auctions. “Most fans will remember that as one of, if not the, greatest farewell performance in the history of sports.”
Bryant scored 60 points in the Lakers’ 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz.
“After the final piece of confetti had fallen, one of Kobe’s absolute last acts before he walked off the professional court was to add a large signature to the center of the number 8,” said Imler.
“It’s one of the biggest Kobe autographs we’ve ever seen. It’s about a foot and a half long.”
Bryant died at age 41, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, in a January helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
“Certainly the market has escalated and, you know, as you can imagine, you know, all things Kobe were really kind of crystallized after his, his tragic passing and kind of took on a new depth and a new meaning, a new level of appreciation,” Imler said.
Buyers must place a bid before Oct. 3 to be eligible to raise the stakes on that day.
The seller will donate 10% of the proceeds to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, a non-profit that helps underserved communities through youth sports. The name refers to nicknames for Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
The sale, titled Michael Jordan & Basketball Icons, includes 375 items such as jerseys and game-worn sneakers by Jordan.
“We have a great pair of Jordan game used Air Jordan 1’s. You know, the iconic red, white and black version,” said Imler.
“Those are at the top of a lot of collectors’ wish list.”
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Richard Chang; Editing by Bill Berkrot)