Sotheby's estimates that a jersey worn by US basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who died almost three years ago in a tragic helicopter accident, will sell for up to $7 million next month, the New York auction house said Thursday.
If the early February sale reaches the upper end of Sotheby's estimates, it will nearly double 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.
It would not be enough, however, to surpass the world record for a game-worn jersey, set in September 2022 at $10.1 million with the sale of Michael Jordan's number 23 Chicago Bulls jersey, which he wore in 1998 during his last NBA title run.
The previous record was set earlier in 2022, with the sale of a jersey worn during the 1986 World Cup by football legend Diego Maradona.
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, according to Sotheby's.
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.
Sotheby's says that small sum can be explained by the context of the time: the jersey had not yet been "photo-matched," which the auction house describes as being "one of the most sought-after forms of authentication for sports memorabilia."
It was also years before Bryant's fatal helicopter crash, after which his April 2008 celebration became "the image that galvanized the public," Sotheby's said.
Throughout the 2007-2008 season -- Bryant's only as the NBA's Most Valuable Player -- "this jersey was worn 25 times, and he scored 645 points in this jersey," Brahm Wachter, head of streetwear and modern collectibles at Sotheby's, told AFP.
The item will be on display in New York starting February 1, and is part of a larger online sale of collectible sports memorabilia lasting from February 2 to 9. — AFP