Jersey from iconic Kobe Bryant photo expected to fetch $7 million

Jersey from iconic Kobe Bryant photo expected to fetch $7 million
(Image credit: Wally Skalij • Getty)

The jersey pictured in the most iconic photograph ever taken of NBA legend Kobe Bryant is up for auction – and is expected to fetch as much as $7 million (approximately £5.7 million).

One of the most seminal shots in sporting history, the classic photograph – taken by Los Angeles Times photographer Wally Skalij on a Nikon D3, using the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR G lens – has become the most recognizable and reproduced representation of the legendary Los Angeles laker and his "Mamba Mentality".

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It has been featured on endless amounts of official (and unofficial) NBA merchandise, and immortalized on posters and murals across the world – a fitting tribute to Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a tragic helicopter crash in January 2020, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and 7 other people on board. 

The photograph depicts a jubilant Bryant during his sole MVP season, triumphantly grabbing his uniform to celebrate a big-time basket against the Denver Nuggets at the Staples Center, during the 2008 NBA Playoffs.

The iconic "Mamba Mentality" image in full, taken by photographer Wally Skalij on a Nikon D3 (Image credit: Wally Skalij • Getty)

The Los Angeles home jersey featured in that image, in signature gold and purple with Bryant's number 24, is being auctioned by Sotheby's – and within an hour had already received a bid of $4.5 million (£3.7 million), eclipsing the previous highest price paid for a Bryant jersey ($3.7 million (£3 million) paid for a 1996-97 jersey in 2001). 

"It’s actually crazy pervasive, this image," Brahm Wachter, Sotheby's vice president and head of streetwear and modern collectibles, told CNN (via Wish TV). 

"He had so much passion and if you really look around this exhibit, you’ll see this image that’s associated with him – grabbing his shirt, in kind of elation, and it’s become so iconic."

The jersey will come with a collection of photographs, artwork, books and other material, and is on public display at Sotheby's New York during the first week of February. Bidding closes on February 09, and seems certain to set a historic record for Bryant merchandise.

If you're interested in the best Nikon cameras for sports, make sure to check out our review of the Big N's latest flagship, the Nikon Z9, along with the best Nikon Z lenses.

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.