Fan in China purchases, returns stolen Kobe high school jersey

Jesse D. Garrabrant / National Basketball Association / Getty

A long-lost piece of rare Kobe Bryant memorabilia has been returned to its original owner.

In February 2017, one of Bryant's autographed Lower Merion High School jerseys was stolen from a display case at the Pennsylvania school before being sold to a Black Mamba super fan in China.

Liu Zhe, 28, told ESPN's Dave McMenamin he purchased the uniform in October 2018 for about $2,000 from an undisclosed online seller to add to his growing Bryant collection. However, he realized it looked identical to the stolen jersey and offered to return it.

He'd originally hoped to give it to Bryant during the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup draw this coming weekend in Shenzhen, China - which Bryant will announce in person - but instead mailed the jersey back to Lower Merion.

"I hope Kobe can know the news before he comes to China," Liu said, while adding that he didn't ask for anything in return.

Bryant never actually wore the jersey in question, one of 10 signed replicas produced after the Philadelphia high school retired his No. 33. It was one of several items stolen from the high school on the same day in 2017, along with a 1996 state championship trophy and five pairs of Bryant's signature Nike shoes.

While the trophy and sneakers have yet to be found, security footage captured two unidentified suspects in the act.

The Lower Merion Police Department is still investigating and is working with new information from Liu regarding the unknown seller.

"We'd love to know what happened to the other items too but just the fact that someone, when they realized what they had, was willing to send it back and do the right thing was a very welcome turn of events," Lower Merion assistant coach Doug Young said.

"We're very excited to have the jersey back in its appropriate place."

Fan in China purchases, returns stolen Kobe high school jersey
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