Kobe Bryant’s private family matters again reach a public stage
The 131-character dispatch arrived mournfully within two hours of sunrise May 4, at 7:58 a.m. to be exact.
“When u give Give GIVE and they take Take TAKE at wat point do u draw a line in the sand?” Kobe Bryant wrote on his Twitter feed, adding the hashtags “hurt beyond measure,” “gave me no warning,” and finally, “love?”
Bryant’s career with the Lakers has often been pushed aside by internal family matters, the recent court battle over his memorabilia the latest in a string of cheerless events.
Bryant and his mother, Pamela, are contesting in court whether she has the right to give a New Jersey-based auction house dozens of his basketball mementos from high school and his early Lakers career.
Bryant’s mother said she planned to purchase a Nevada home with the $450,000 advance she received, but Bryant said in court papers he never granted her permission to sell the items. Included are two championship rings he gave his parents after the Lakers won the 2000 title, a signed basketball from that team, his 1996 Pennsylvania high school championship ring and sweat suits he wore at Lower Merion High in a Philadelphia suburb.
The dispute put a quick and public end to whatever thawing existed in a sometimes icy relationship between Bryant and his mother and father, Joe, a former NBA player.
The initial estrangement dates to Bryant and the former Vanessa Laine getting married in April 2001, and the subsequent move of the younger couple from Pacific Palisades to Newport Coast, closer to where Vanessa’s family was rooted in Orange County.
Bryant’s parents did not attend Kobe and Vanessa’s wedding in Dana Point. Two months later, after Bryant won his second championship with the Lakers, he cried as he clutched the trophy in the shower, later saying, “That was about my dad.”
Joe was uneasy with his son’s utter devotion to Vanessa and also uncomfortable that she was a Latina, not African American, Kobe told The Times in 2003.
Bryant and his parents appeared to patch things up around the time Joe was hired to coach the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks in 2005.
Bryant’s parents were present during the Lakers’ 2010 championship run, sitting in courtside seats directly across from the team’s bench for a handful of games. On one memorable night at Staples Center, Bryant scored 39 points as the Lakers outlasted up-and-coming Oklahoma City, 95-92, in a first-round game.
But Joe and Pamela were not necessarily there via Kobe’s bidding. Rather, they had accepted an invitation from a wealthy Lakers fan. Nonetheless, it was symbolic of the easing of tensions between parents and son.
In a story for The Times in July 2011, Joe indicated his relationship with his son was “pretty good.” Joe, who has coached around the world but never in the NBA, even added he was fine with never escaping Kobe’s long shadow.
“Yeah, because he’s my son,” said Joe, who played for Philadelphia, Houston and the San Diego Clippers in eight seasons of an unremarkable NBA career.
Kobe and Vanessa’s relationship has also been scrutinized, at least twice very publicly.
In 2003, Kobe was charged with sexual assault stemming from a complaint by a 19-year-old worker at a hotel in Edwards, Colo. Bryant admitted to a sexual encounter, but said it was consensual. He also publicly apologized to Vanessa, who stood by him. The rape charges were dropped as the accuser refused to testify, and a civil complaint by her later was settled out of court.
In December 2011, it was learned Vanessa had filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. On the night that information became public, Kobe slipped out the back door of a locker room after a Lakers exhibition game at USC’s Galen Center.
He steadfastly declined to answer questions about the pending divorce.
Last October, though, Vanessa attended a Lakers exhibition game in Anaheim. The reconciliation might have been earlier than that, when the Vanessa and Kobe Bryant Family Foundation raised $67,100 last May by auctioning off a plastic protective face mask that Bryant wore for 11 games because of a broken nose.
This month, though, came more tumult within the family, between mother and son.
Included on the auction list were Bryant’s high school jerseys, including one with his present-day No. 24, and a surfboard-shaped honor from the 1999 Teen Choice Awards that Bryant openly wondered how his mom acquired. In court documents he wrote, “It was last seen by me in my personal residence. I do not know how my mother or Goldin obtained possession of this award but it was without my permission.”
Goldin Auctions is a reputable auction house, having sold a rare Honus Wagner baseball card for $2.1 million this year. It continues to showcase “The Bryant Collection” on its website and plans to sell it off in June.
Vanessa contributed her voice to court papers filed last Wednesday, saying she and Kobe asked for the mementos several years ago while visiting the elder Bryants’ Philadelphia home.
Vanessa wrote Pamela Bryant agreed to return Kobe’s property but “stated that she had placed it all in storage because she had converted Kobe’s old bedroom into a toy room for our nieces,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Bryant’s memorabilia case will continue to be heard Monday at a U.S. District Court in Camden, N.J.
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