[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 basketball 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. Due it being the most prevalent rookie card from the Black Mamba, it makes it quite an affordable base rookie card as well.
’19-20 Panini Prizm Purple Fast Break
I don’t necessarily want to focus too much on parallel cards 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. This Kobe Bryant card features a more seasoned Laker great with the ball in hand looking to attack.
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.
For those interested in more modern collecting, 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 card 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 popular card, 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.
The 96-97 Metal set is probably one of the most unique Kobe Bryant rookie cards in existence, yet it also foreshadows how Kobe played basketball with flair.
Kobe Bryant ’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. Two giants collide in this clean design with LeBron James defending Kobe.
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. If in pristine condition this card could be worth thousands of dollars as an auction item.
Kobe Bryant ’16-17 Panini Studio From Downtown
From Downtown is one of our favorite inserts out there due to its unique and amazing card design. 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 insert card 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.
1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractor Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #138
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. The action card design depicts a young Kobe Bryant driving to the hole versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Although there are a lot of different Kobe Bryant RC’s, the Topps Chrome Refactor tends to be the most valuable card. Not only is it considered a true rookie card, but it’s also the most popular card. 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 Bean Bryant 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? Below we provided a checklist of additional Kobe Bryant basketball cards that capture the iconic career of the Laker great.
Also, if you’re a basketball card collector looking for a space to expand your PC with the best players in basketball today like Luka Doncic, James Harden and LeBron James or other All-Time greats from Kobe’s era like Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal, hop on the Loupe app today! Be sure to also sign up so you can get free Loupe credits on your first purchase!
Kobe Bryant’s Checklist
|1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractor Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #138
|1997-98 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Kobe Bryant #81 #/100
|1996-97 Ultra Kobe Bryant RC #52
|Kobe Bryant 1997 Ultra Gold Medallion
|1997-98 Skybox Premium Golden Touch Kobe Bryant
|1998-99 Fleer Playmakers Theatre Kobe Bryant #3 #/100
|1998-99 Upper Deck Game Jerseys Kobe Bryant #GJ19, 21
|1999-00 Upper Deck Game Jerseys Patch Kobe Bryant #GJP11, #GJP27
|Kobe Bryant 2007 Topps Chrome Refractor
|Kobe Bryant 2008 Topps Chrome Base
|2009-10 National Treasures Notable Nicknames Kobe Bryant Autograph (#KB1 #/99 or #KB2 #/35)
|2012-13 National Treasures Notable Nicknames Kobe Bryant #6 Autograph #/49
|1996-97 Metal Kobe Bryant RC
|Kobe Bryant 2015 Panini Flawless USA Gold Medals
|Kobe Bryant 2013 Panini Flawless Patches #43
|Flair Showcase Legacy Collection Row 1 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card
|2019 Panini Contenders #32 Kobe Bryant