All Hail the Black Mamba! Top 24 Kobe Bryant Cards of All-Time
Kobe Bean Bryant is an elite athlete who has proven to be one of the biggest names in the sporting world. It should come as no surprise that Kobe Bryant cards and autographs are among the most popular sports options in modern collecting.
Like every top basketball player, Bryant is regularly compared to Michael Jordan, on the court and in the card world. Michael Jordan was one of the first international superstars and it is likely that no one will ever surpass him, but Kobe Bryant has come the closest to matching him in both hobby reputation and on-court success over his 20-year career. This makes Kobe Bryant cards not only a viable option for modern collectors, but also an all-time hobby legend.
The following list features 24 of the best Kobe Bryant cards in existence. Value is important, but the goal is to showcase some of the best cards and most interesting options available to collectors. Given the sheer number of Kobe Bryant cards, it would be impossible to provide a complete list with only 24 spots. Therefore, many great cards were left off. However, all of these cards would make a fine addition to any collection and are some of the most sought-after and valuable Kobe Bryant cards in existence.
Given his relevance to both the sport and the collecting world, there are, of course, plenty of other notable Kobe Bryant cards out there. For a snapshot of what is commanding the most attention from collectors at any given moment, check out our real-time guide to the hottest Kobe Bryant cards on eBay.
If you are looking for something that offers more practicality than basketball cards, take a detailed look at the signature line of Kobe Bryant sneakers.
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Top Kobe Bryant Cards of All-Time
*Base cards are shown alongside parallels, when applicable, as a visual guide. Linked sets in the text go straight to detailed profiles or guides.
Easily one of the most innovative card designs, 1996-97 E-X2000 is part high-end card and part art project and one of several appealing Kobe Bryant rookie cards. The base card alone has maintained strong values because of its relative rarity and the frailty of the card. However, the card in question is the white Credentials parallel, which is numbered to 499. This may sound like a lot, but at this time, it was considered rare, and it remains a notable option for collectors.
For a detailed look at all the Kobe Bryant rookie cards, check out our comprehensive guide and checklist.
Another rookie year offering, 1996-97 Flair Showcase carries on the tradition of multiple images, a nice glossy finish, and a refined design. There are three base Kobe Bryant "Row" versions, each with different images and rarity. The real appeal comes from the Legacy Collection parallels. Each base version has a teal counterpart, which is numbered to 150. The Row 2 Kobe Bryant is shown below alongside the corresponding Legacy Collection parallel.
The clear favorite among Kobe Bryant rookies, Bryant's base 1996-97 Topps Chrome card is one of the few non-numbered rookie cards, without a signature, that still commands high prices. Even more valuable are Refractor parallels, which fall 1:12 packs, on average. That may not sound too tough for an unnumbered parallel but there are 220 cards in the base set so they don't appear too often.
One of the biggest insert sets in the history of basketball cards, Jambalaya has the fortune of including both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan in the checklist. This die-cut card includes a dynamic pre-dunk image, bright colors and crazy odds (1:720 packs).
Not content to just stop at Refractors, 1997-98 Finest took the brand to the next level with Embossed Refractors. While Kobe Bryant has Bronze, Silver and Gold versions in the base set, the Gold version is the rarest. The three cards below showcase the various parallel options for the Gold version. First is the basic Embossed die-cut card. Next is the Refractor, which is numbered to 289. The last card is the real prize. The Embossed Refractor is also die-cut, numbered to 74 and features that familiar Atomic Refractor finish. These cards don't surface often, but when they do, they produce high prices and a flurry of bids.
One of the most iconic parallels in modern collecting, Precious Metal Gems have seen their stock rise considerably over the years and this all started with 1997-98 Skybox Metal Universe. Each foil-covered Bryant card is numbered to 100. The first ten cards feature green foil and the remaining 90 cards include red foil. These cards are very condition sensitive.
Although they are not quite as popular as the foil version found in 1997-98 Metal Universe, PMG's found in 1997-98 Metal Universe Championship are even more rare, with a print run of 50. The difference is a little more subtle as the colorful foil is replaced with a Refractor-like finish.
Golden Touch brought collectors a winning formula for inserts. Gold foil, a unique die-cut design, and tough odds made for a strong card and Kobe Bryant is one of the most popular options from the set.
Rare parallels really began to take off around this time, and the Star Rubies found in 1997-98 Skybox Premium are another popular option. Although the Star Rubies parallel was included in multiple years of the Skybox Premium product line, this particular version has one of the craziest designs.
Not as distinctive as the original Big Men on Court inserts found in 1996-97 Z-Force, the 1997-98 version has a 3-D look to them and are just as rare. Since he was not included in the first set, collectors need to look to this version for their Kobe Bryant collection.
Star Power is an insert that is found in 1997-98 Ultra. The regular Kobe Bryant Star Power card is fairly common, but the two rare parallels have proven to be quite valuable. Star Power Plus includes a green background and die-cut design. The rarest version, Star Power Supreme, includes a yellow background and an additional image of Bryant.
Also found in 1997-98 Ultra, Ultra Stars is a rare insert with an ever more rare parallel. The regular version includes a shiny, silver foil background. Ultra Stars Gold is a parallel that only comprises ten percent of the total print run. The final effect has the look of a gold diamond transparency combined with a cracked-ice design.
Playmakers Theatre bucks the trend of the many futuristic inserts from this time and goes for a more refined look. With the gold foil, embossing and wood panel background, it's a blast from the past that evokes the image of an ornate antique. This elaborate insert features a young Kobe Bryant and is numbered to 100. While they appear similar, the card on the right is a bit different. This version has appeared in similar numbers to the serial numbered version, but it is not embossed and is not serial numbered. Both carry good value, but the numbered version is generally preferred.
Hoops is not normally a place for collectors to chase high-end inserts. However, with Bams, that is exactly what they will find in 1998-99 Hoops. Multiple images and large text make for a slightly overwhelming design, but that has not hurt values. The dunk-inspired insert is numbered to 250. There is also a rare parallel, appropriately named Slam Bams, that is limited to 100 copies. They can be distinguished from the Bams by the gold "SLAM" found in the upper-right and lower-left corners and a gold tint.
Sporting a similar look to the 1997-98 Metal Universe Platinum Portraits, the Fusion inserts take it a step further with a colorized player image. Tiny holes are formed in the card to produce an image of Kobe Bryant and make for a very unique card. While the base insert is numbered to 250, there is also a parallel available, which is numbered to 40. The serial numbering is noted in an uncommon way on the card front and is actually cut-out, so that you can see through the card. The parallel also uses a light-gold design.
What Noyz Boyz lacks in grammatical correctness, it more than makes up for with flash and tough odds. The intricate die-cut design employs another pre-dunk image of Bryant. Based on overall value and popularity, collectors have clearly heard the "Noyz."
Let's face it, jersey cards have jumped the shark. But in the late 1990s, jersey cards were rare and collectors actually wanted to pull them, even plain, one-color jersey swatches. Although the Game Jerseys insert appeared the previous season, Kobe Bryant's first official jersey card did not come until 1998-99 Upper Deck. Bryant has two different cards, both of which can be seen below. The first card (#GJ19) is part of a group that averaged 1:2,500 packs. The silver card below that (#GJ21) is only found in hobby packs as part of a set that fell 1:250 packs.
Numbered to 50, the last Kobe Bryant PMG from the original run is not quite as popular as the first cards. Perhaps this is due to the decision to add only a gold tint to distinguish the rare parallel. In any event, PMGs always equal big money in the hobby.
The only other jersey cards on the list, 1999-00 Upper Deck upped the ante by adding Game Jersey Patch and Super Patch cards for Kobe Bryant. The odds for any card in the 30-card Game Jersey Patch set was an unlikely 1:7,500 packs, while the Super Patch version is numbered to 25. Both the Game Jersey Patch and Super Patch sets include two different options for Kobe Bryant collectors.
Kobe Bryant autographs are still one of the biggest pulls for modern collectors, but Notable Nicknames makes them a little more special with inscriptions. There were two different versions in 2009-10 National Treasures. Cards with "MVP" are numbered to 35 and cards with "Black Mamba" are numbered to 99.
Notable Nicknames returned in 2012-13 National Treasures, and Kobe Bryant was again included in the set. This time, "Vino" was the moniker featured. If you don't understand the reference of Kobe's other nickname, think of a fine wine and what age does to it. Certainly not as flashy or evocative as "Black Mamba," Bryant's new moniker and a print run of 49 still stand out for collectors.
During the 2012-13 season, a new high-end product was released at price level that was unmatched. 2012-13 Flawless showed that basketball collectors are not deterred by high prices, even for new products. The Flawless brand has continued over the years and remains a prime option for Kobe Bryant collectors.
Like Flawless, Immaculate is another premium basketball offering with Kobe Bryant autographs. Although the price tag is lower than Flawless, many view Immaculate Collection as the better overall value. The autographed jersey cards have proven to be the most popular.
Lastly, we come to Exquisite. Exquisite was the premium basketball product for multiple years. Unfortunately, since Upper Deck lost the NBA license and Kobe Bryant in close succession, Exquisite has just not been the same. Over the years, there have been some great Kobe Bryant autographs, but during the stretch from 2003-04 to 2008-09, nothing could match the autographed Kobe Bryant cards found in Exquisite Collection Basketball.