Mom Ethics and Kobe Bryant’s Plight

Ah, how many of you must identify with Kobe Bryant today!

Did Mom throw them out?

Did Mom throw them out?

He is enmeshed in an ugly family dispute, suing his own mother in response to an unethical wound that mothers have casually inflicted on their children for centuries.

The superstar Los Angeles Lakers guard’s lawyers argued in a court filing that Bryant never gave his mother permission to sell his memorabilia from his high school days and early professional basketball career, in an attempt to block the auctioning off of jerseys, balls, trophies, championship rings and more for his mother’s profit. His mother, Pamela Bryant, says that she has the right to sell the stuff, because the NBA star told her the memorabilia was hers. She has already received a received a $450,000 advance to have Berlin, N.J.-based Goldin Auctions sell it all for top dollar.

Let’s have a show of hands—how many out there discovered to your horror that your mother threw out or gave away something that you cherished from your distant past ? Baseball cards? Old photographs? Letters? Clothes? I was lucky: my parents never threw away anything in their lives. This had its own irritation value, as my mother would produce my 7th grade essays and poems at family gatherings and start reading them (while never showing any interest at all in what I had written recently), often driving me out of the house. At least she never tossed or sold my stuff without asking me.

My wife is still traumatized and angry over the incident in which her charity-obsessed parents gave away one of her cherished dolls because she “hadn’t played with it for a long time, and a poor child would be grateful for it.” This is a fine sentiment, but the cold, hard fact is that the doll didn’t belong to my wife’s parents,  it wasn’t theirs to give away, and doing so was disrespectful, unfair and cruel—an abuse of parental power. But what was my wife going to do, sue them?

Oh. Right. Kobe.

There is no way Kobe will come out of this looking anything but terrible. He’s rich; his mother isn’t. For some reason, almost every mother adopts the theory that if her child came to own something while living in her house and didn’t take it along when he or she moved out, the object, no matter what it is, is officially abandoned and becomes house property. For a son to sue a mother for simply acting on this time-honored mother delusion is going to be taken as proof that Kobe is a bad and ungrateful son, and should be traded forthwith to the Clippers, or some other basketball Hell, as punishment.

Admittedly, the fact that Pamela Bryant is not merely giving Kobe’s things to Goodwill, or leaving it out on the curb, but making enough money to pay for six months worth of Michelle Obama vacations makes her a bit less sympathetic. Nonetheless, if I were Kobe, I’d let it go. He’s right, but it’s Mom.

I know who my wife will be rooting for, though.


Pointer: CNN

Facts: NY Daily News

Graphic: ABC News


14 thoughts on “Mom Ethics and Kobe Bryant’s Plight

      • Precisely. I’ve been out of my parents house and with my wife for a considerable time now and my parents have begun the inventory of all my stuff and have given me the decency of asking if I want an item or if they can sell it.

        The statute of limitations on how long parents are a free storage unit is wholly up to the parents… It’s their house.

  1. Sad as this story is – and bespeaking what I’d lay dollars to donuts was probably a fractured relationship before any of this happened – I gotta say that I side more closely with Kobe (not that I’m any fan of the man, mind you) than with Ms. Bryant.

    This is not a case of a parent discarding or giving away a grown child’s property. It is a case of a parent specifically seeking to profit (and handsomely, given Kobe’s stature) from the disposal of it.

    One may presume that Kobe believed his mother actually WANTED these items, as souvenirs of her remarkable son. Reasonably, one may also presume that Ms. Bryant did not discuss with, or seek permission from, Kobe prior to releasing these items for sale. which would have been the proper thing for her to do.

    Sad story, all the way around. Both of ’em look like jerks.

  2. Related question- let’s say that the memorabilia was a clear-cut gift. Is it ethical to sell a gift you were given if it is something you don’t want? Presumably if the giver knows you are selling it, that’s pretty cruel to them, but how far is one obligated to keep an unwanted or disused item rather than selling it and using the profit to buy/do something enjoyable or necessary?

    • If it’s a gift, it’s a gift. It is considerate and ethical to offer something that has sentimental value back to the giver, but certainly not required by any ethical standards. Somewhere on the blog I have dealt with just this scenario, but I don’t have the energy to search for it.

  3. Hes lucky she kept it. I went off to boot camp and while I was gone my mother sold all my stuff. I mean everything. All I have left from my childhood is some books and some other things that my brother saved when he came by the day after she had a yard sale.

  4. My entire collection of Ninja Turtle action figures. Sold for $7 at a yard sale. I forgave, but I have never forgotten.

    Unrelatedly, Kobe’s own team is looking a lot more like Basketball Hell than the Clippers are these days.

  5. My 45’s from the 60s….Elvis, the Beatles…and my rock collection. Sigh…the records I bought one by one with my $1 a week allowance. They might be worth a penny today.

  6. A favorite saying of my husband – “My Mom threw out half of the 70’s”. He is still salty about the train set that included an engine car that billowed black smoke.
    His sister tell stories of coming home from school to find their toys/belongings gone, poof! Poor girl recounts memories of the fear and dread she felt leaving for school on the days Mom had her heavy duty housecleaning tools out and cleaning ‘uniform’ on.
    I can’t help but laugh but it really is sad too. To this day we haunt thrift and antique stores searching for their childhood. I think that’s why those type stores do such a brisk business – they’re selling memories, just selling memoires . . .

  7. I think its interesting that Kobe’s mother is in the ethical wrong but since she is his mother he’s expected to let it go. Maybe the deeper issue is the deference society affords to mothers and its potential for abuse.

  8. I think he is ungrateful….after all I bet his Mom washed those dirty clothes that she is now selling. And I bet if he wanted them he could have taken them with him when he “grew up”. But really maybe she knows more about the kid than we do and this is a weird payback time. Maybe she used the wrong detergent? Suing your Mom is pretty low under these circumstances & someone forgot to teach them not to air their dirty laundry. Wonder what he would have done if she used lighter fluid instead? And who really thinks that overpaid basketball cheaters have ethics. Nah…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.