On Super Bowl Sunday 2017, two people broke into Lower Merion High School and stole memorabilia celebrating the school’s most famous alum, Kobe Bryant.
Now, two years later, one piece has been returned — by way of China.
ESPN is reporting that a 28-year-old man from Harbin, China, purchased a jersey in October for $2,000 online after a seller reached out.
Liu Zhe is a “self-proclaimed Kobe fanatic,” and already owns Bryant Lakers and USA Basketball jerseys. Adding a signed Lower Merion No. 33 made sense.
It was Liu who realized the jersey was likely the one that had been stolen on Feb. 5, 2017, and he planned to return it to Bryant this week when Bryant travels to Shenzen for a FIBA Basketball World Cup event.
Instead, he mailed the jersey back to Ardmore after connecting with Lower Merion. The school gave it to police, and a detective took it to a New Jersey memorabilia shop to confirm its authenticity.
In an interesting twist, the jersey was never actually worn by Bryant. It was one of 10 replicas created by the school when Bryant’s number was retired. The other nine were given to school officials and boosters, according to ESPN.
The other items stolen on that February night — the 1996 PIAA Class 4A state-title trophy and several pairs of Nikes signed by Bryant — still haven’t been recovered. But Lower Merion police hope new information about the online seller will help solve the crime.
“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,” said Doug Young, Lower Merion assistant coach. “We’re very excited to have the jersey back in its appropriate place.”