[Update: Another year has passed since we lost a legendary basketball player and a legendary father. We want to reshare this post as a tribute, especially because so many of you may not have seen it in the early days of Loupe. You’re still in our hearts, Kobe.]
As many of you know, this week marks the one-year anniversary of the unthinkable passing of Kobe Bryant. A beloved NBA legend was taken far too soon.
We want to pay tribute to the Black Mamba in the most appropriate way we know how: By looking back at some of our favorite Kobe cards. Let’s highlight eight of them because — well, because you know why. And 24 would make for a very long article.
’96-97 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice
Let’s start simple. If you had a Kobe Bryant rookie card, chances are that it was Upper Deck Collector’s Choice. It’s the most prevalent of Kobe’s rookies, but it’s also an instant classic. Number 8 taking flight.
We’ll look at more Kobe RCs on this list, but this one belongs in the conversation just because it was the one that was probably in your collection.
’19-20 Panini Prizm Purple Fast Break
I don’t necessarily want to focus too much on parallels for this list, but this one is just too perfect. The purple disco variant of Prizm’s Fast Break just looks incredible with the Lakers’ purple and gold.
Panini Prizm launched on December 4, 2019 — just a bit less than two months before Kobe passed away. It’s one of the last cards to grace us with his picture while he was still with us.
’17-18 NBA Hoops Premium Career Tribute
Kobe had the heart of a champion. Oh, he was a champion too. Five times over. Not too shabby.
This NBA Hoops Premium Career Tribute card is an absolute beaut — a stylized homage to one of the most successful players to ever lace ’em up. The autographed version isn’t easy to come by though. The one with the Mamba’s ink is limited to 20.
’19-20 Panini Crown Royal Kaboom
Kobe has been on a lot of Kaboom inserts over the years. Take your pick as to which one is your favorite. Almost all of them feature Kobe about to throw down a ferocious dunk.
The latest Kaboom edges the others out because it’s the first time the insert is posthumous. This released shortly after his death. A jubilant fist pump, that infectious smile — this card perfectly captures how many fans remember Kobe.
’96-97 Fleer Metal
This won’t end up as the most expensive Kobe rookie card on the list. It won’t end up as the most recognizable, either.
But man, it is so wonderfully ’90s. The nostalgia just hits whenever you look at this card. I wouldn’t hate it if Panini brought back the over-the-top metal design for an insert set.
’08-09 Topps Chrome
Admittedly, this card is elevated because it has not one but two guys who can lay claim to being the GOAT. There’s a lot of starpower in one photograph.
But timing is everything too. Kobe is probably at the end of his peak here. It’s 2009, and he’s about to win his fourth title. LeBron’s still with the Cavs, and it won’t be long before he jets off to Miami to win a pair of championships. Two of the greatest crossing paths. I’d love to know how this exchange played out.
’16-17 Panini Studio From Downtown
From Downtown is one of our favorite inserts out there. It’s an athlete juxtaposed against an artistic representation of the city they play for. You’ll have a hard time finding a significantly more creative insert.
Kobe’s From Downtown from his retirement year is a sight to behold. Everything about it screams LA. Palm trees, skyscrapers, a repurposed Hollywood sign. Except in this case, Kobe’s another LA icon. He’s not just a player; he’s a beloved symbol of the entire city.
’96-97 Topps Chrome Refractor
It doesn’t get much better than this. This is the holy grail of Kobe Bryant rookie cards, which means it’s the de facto holy grail of all Kobe Bryant cards.
Although there are a lot of different Kobe RCs, the Topps Chrome Refactor tends to be the most coveted. In fact, a BGS 9.5 just sold for $100,000 a few days ago. He’s one of the greatest of all-time. You’re gonna have to open the wallet wide to get his most beloved card.
Kobe was an absolute icon who played for a long time. That means he has a ton of cards. Which ones are we missing that are a staple of your PC?