I'm sorry L.A. Laker fans. Kobe Bryant may have brought you a few championships, but just in time for Mother's Day, Kobe finds himself embroiled in a lawsuit involving his own mother.
This is exactly the kind of behavior that creates Jazz fans whose eyes bulge out over the sight of someone donning a gold and purple No. 8 jersey in the Delta Center or No. 24 jersey in the EnergySolutions Arena. (Kobe changed his jersey number the same year the arena name changed -- and his jersey number has some passing relevance to this column.)
Just to be clear, Kobe isn't officially suing his mother. Although after reading his original complaint, I'd say his lawyers worked very hard to try to make it look like he wasn't, even though he technically is. When Kobe discovered that Goldin Auctions was going to sell his high school memorabilia, he asked for it to be returned. Instead of turning over the property, Goldin sued Kobe in New Jersey asking the Court there to say that the Auction House had the right to sell the items. Not particularly fond of New Jersey, and wanting a home court advantage, Kobe filed a complaint earlier this week in the Orange County Superior Justice Court against Goldin Auctions, LLC, and Does 1 through 25 for "Conversion and Declaratory Relief." (You can look at a copy of the lawsuit at http://goo.gl/YjOIg.) The last sentence should probably be translated into English: Kobe sued an auction house claiming his stuff was stolen and he wants it back.
"Conversion" is a legal term that means taking without permission or theft. He knows the auction house has his stuff, and there could be at least 25 unnamed people who are also responsible. "Does" means "Doe" as in John or Jane Doe, not Bambi's mother. In this case, one of the Jane Does happens to be Pamela Bryant, Kobe's mother.
The background story is that Goldin Auctions paid Pamela Bryant a $450,000 advance for Kobe's box of childhood memories -- one of the most prized items being his No. 24 high school jersey. The crux of the dispute is that Kobe's mother signed an affidavit saying she had the right to sell Kobe's teenage memorabilia.
The complaint goes on to allege that most of the items were not left at Mom and Dad's house, but literally taken by some unnamed Does from the Kobe Bryant residence where the items had last been seen before turning up at the auction house and Kobe wants the stuff back. I particularly liked how the attorneys in the lawsuit decided to call the items in all caps "The Kobe Bryant Property" or "The Kobe Bryant Collection."
The dispute is simple. Who owns "The Kobe Bryant Collection"? Mom says she does. Kobe says he does. Yet, because of the money already spent is close to a half million dollars, and with all the publicity, the value of the "Kobe Bryant Collection" probably just significantly increased. Now the collectors not only want the high school jersey, but also the high school jersey that Kobe said his Mom stole. The lawsuit looks like it will continue to be on the sport pages and in the federal courts on both coasts in the days to come.
The snide Jazz fan in me thinks that federal court is the only court I don't mind seeing Kobe in during May and June.
The dutiful son in me says, "Happy Mother's Day, Mom -- and thanks for giving me back all of my high school memorabilia."
E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or