Kobe Bryant has won a judge's order that temporarily blocks a Camden County auctioneer from selling memorabilia given it by the basketball great's mother.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford issued an order Wednesday in Santa Ana, Calif., that blocks Goldin Auctions L.L.C. of Berlin from selling or transferring property, including "basketball jerseys, championship rings, and other sports memorabilia" that Bryant says belongs to him. Goldin said in court papers that it expected to sell the items for more than $1 million and had advanced Pamela Bryant $450,000.
The dispute, playing out in federal courts in California and New Jersey, centers on whether Kobe Bryant can halt his mother's attempts to sell such items as his Lower Merion High School uniform and varsity letters and his ring from the 2000 NBA championship.
"I never told my mother that she could have my personal property, let alone consign it for sale by public auction," Bryant, 34, said in a court papers filed Wednesday in Santa Ana.
"Several years ago, while visiting my parents' home in Philadelphia, my wife and I specifically requested that my mother return the property to me so that I may give it to my own children," Bryant said in the declaration. "My mother never returned those items to me."
On May 2, Pamela Bryant called him, according to the filing.
"I confronted her about her false statement that I have given my memorabilia to her," Kobe Bryant said.
"I said to her, '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.' Of course, this is untrue, since my wife and I requested that she return my memorabilia several years earlier."
Bryant sued Goldin in state court in Orange County, Calif., on May 6, four days after the auctioneer sued the Los Angeles Lakers star in U.S. District Court in Camden. Goldin had the California case transferred to federal court this week, prompting Guilford to issue a temporary restraining order.
He set a hearing for Monday "to discuss the TRO and whether a preliminary injunction" should be issued. He also will discuss whether the case should return to state court. A judge in the New Jersey case has set a hearing for Tuesday. The impact of having the case filed in two federal jurisdictions was not immediately clear.
In an April 30 news release, Goldin announced a June auction of the "Kobe Bryant Collection, which included '100+ unique items from Kobe Bryant's childhood, high school career and entry into the NBA including championship rings, game-worn high school uniforms, and much more.' "
In his complaint, Bryant claimed Goldin's "conversion" of his property "will cause great and irreparable injury" to him because the items in question "have enormous sentimental value and are irreplaceable."
Goldin attorney Jeffrey A. Cohen wrote in an e-mail that the auctioneer had obtained the items legally. It was "approached by Pamela Bryant, who provided certificates of authenticity and attested in a sworn affidavit to their lawful ownership. Goldin Auctions has already issued a substantial monetary advance for these items," Cohen said.
Goldin is "taking all necessary and appropriate" legal action to oppose Bryant's "efforts in California to interfere with the New Jersey proceedings," according to the statement.
Mark Campbell, an attorney for Kobe Bryant, said in a statement that "Mr. Bryant's personal property has ended up in the possession of someone who does not lawfully own it. We look forward to resolving this legal matter through the legal system."
Bryant, who had surgery last month to repair a torn Achilles tendon, averaged 27.3 points per game this season. A first-round draft pick in 1996, he is one of the game's all-time greats, winning five NBA championships, a Most Valuable Player award, two scoring titles, and 15 all-star berths.
"I am also the NBA's fourth all-time scoring leader," Bryant said in his filing.