A jersey worn by US basketball legend Kobe Bryant — who died three years ago in a tragic helicopter accident — sold at auction for $5.8 million on Thursday.
The sale by Sotheby’s in New York set a new record for any Bryant item at auction but came in under the upper pre-sale estimate of $7 million.
The price was comfortably more than the previous high of $3.7 million paid for a jersey worn by the Los Angeles Lakers titan, 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 sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s in London last year.
Bryant’s iconic yellow-and-purple number 24 jersey, put up for sale by an anonymous owner, was worn by the legendary Laker in 25 games during the 2007-2008 season, Bryant’s only as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
In one of those appearances — a post-season game against the Denver Nuggets on April 23, 2008 — photographers famously captured Bryant celebrating after a successful three-point shot, gripping his jersey and letting out a primal scream.
The image has since been plastered on walls around the world by street artists, especially in Los Angeles, where Bryant played his entire professional career.
The last time this jersey was put up for auction, in 2013, it only fetched $18,678.
It was years before Bryant’s fatal helicopter crash, after which his April 2008 celebration became “the image that galvanized the public,” Sotheby’s said.