WHEN KOBE Bryant left the Philadelphia area for stardom, he never looked back and didn't really visit all that much, either.
But the past he literally left behind - jerseys from his days at Lower Merion High School, varsity letters and rings, a trophy from the Sonny Hill league and other belongings - might bring the Bryant family to U.S. District Court in Camden next month, and it won't be a happy reunion.
Kobe and his mom, Pamela, have been engaged in a growing battle over the memorabilia she claims he left at their home after leaving for the NBA. Pamela claimed she had the stuff sitting around for about 15 years, and the Los Angeles Lakers guard didn't want it. She contacted Goldin Auctions of West Berlin, Camden County, last year and signed a consignment deal.
She was given an advance of $450,000, court records show, and used it to buy a house in Nevada. The memorabilia is reportedly worth more than $1 million and was scheduled for auction in June.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb set a trial date for June 17 in Camden, expecting a judge in California to transfer Kobe's complaints to New Jersey. Attorneys for Kobe and his mother both said their clients would be there, though Pamela is currently in Thailand, where Kobe's father, Joe, is coaching a basketball team.
"I didn't even know there was a team in Thailand, but apparently they're in the playoffs," said Pamela's attorney, Jeffrey Cohen, of Cherry Hill.
Once Kobe found out about the planned auction last month, his lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to stop the auction and get his belongings back. In court filings, Kobe said he didn't even know how his mom had possession of some items, and he claims he never told her she could sell anything. He allegedly confronted her on the phone about it on May 2, according to a declaration to the court.
"I said, 'Mom, you know I never told you that you could have the memorabilia.' " "Her response was, 'Yes, but you never said you wanted it, either,' " Bryant said.
On Monday, a district judge in California maintained Kobe's temporary restraining order to prevent the auction. Though Kobe wants the case to be heard in Orange County, where he lives, Bumb expected it to be transferred to New Jersey.
She scheduled a mediation hearing for Friday in Camden, though it was unclear if any of the Bryants would attend or whether the memorabilia war would split the family apart. Kobe's dad and grandmother are supporting Pamela Bryant. His sister, Sharia Washington, is supporting him, saying in court filings that Pamela Bryant often talked about ways to make money off Kobe's fame.
Attorneys for both sides declined to comment after yesterday's hearing.