At the end of his final game in the NBA, after he tallied 60 points on 22-for-50 shooting against the Jazz at Staples Center on April 13, 2016, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant stood, arms up, a Body Armor towel draped over his shoulders.
That towel has become a very valuable piece of fabric. This weekend, according to reporter Darren Rovell of The Action Network, the towel sold at auction for $32,720, which included the buyer’s premium. The sale was run by Iconic Auctions, a memorabilia broker based in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The buyer, according to Rovell, was David Kohler, a Lakers superfan who has gathered the most prolific individual collection of Lakers memorabilia in the country, which he calls, “The Lakers Shrine.”
Among the items:
- Game-worn autographed shoes from Jerry West, which he used during the 1971-72 Lakers championship season.
- The 1953 MVP trophy won by the original all-time great Laker, center George Mikan, from when the team was located in Minneapolis. He also has a pair of Mikan’s glasses.
- Seats and a piece of the floor from the original L.A. Forum, home to the Lakers from 1967 through 1999.
- A collection of items from Elgin Baylor including a warm-up jacket and jersey, both autographed, from his rookie year.
- An autographed Wilt Chamberlain jersey and, oddly enough, Chamberlain’s passport that he used in the 1950s.
- The microphone belonging to Hall of Fame announcer Chick Hearn, which he used to call the 2002 NBA Finals, including his final Lakers game. Also, the ball used in 1998 when Hearn called his 3,000th consecutive Lakers game.
‘Lakers Shrine’ Long in the Making
Kohler has been collecting Lakers items going back to the 1980s, when he was a medical student at California State, Fullerton. He gave that up to start SportsCards Plus, a memorabilia store that he later turned into an auction company, SCP Auctions, which partners with Sotheby’s to run auctions of sports items.
Among those has been the contract that officially sold baseball star Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees, which went for $996,000 in 2005.
But Kohler has kept much of his Laker material and has been recognized often for it. He was the subject of an ESPN feature in 2009 and a Lakers.com video piece in 2011.
In 2016, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss acknowledged Kohler’s collection on Twitter, writing, “David! Your Lakers collection = greatest in the world. Thanks for curating & caring for our history. #Lakers shrine”
Kobe Bryant’s Death Spiked Memorabilia Prices
Bryant, of course, died tragically in late January in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others. In the wake of that accident, memorabilia involving him has spiked in value.
The towel that Kohler bought for more than $32,000 was sold for $8,365 in 2016.
In the days after Bryant’s death, the website BusinessofFashion.com reported that prices for Bryant’s shoes and jerseys rose by as much as 600 percent in some cases. “A pair of Adidas Crazy 97 ‘Kobe Bryant Slam Dunk Contest; shoes sold on resale platform StockX for $1,199,” the site said.