LOS ANGELES -- As fans look to find ways to remember Kobe Bryant this week -- with the late Lakers star's birthday Monday followed by the date on the calendar that commemorates his No. 8 and No. 24 uniforms Tuesday, Aug. 24 -- a blockchain company has found another way to honor Mamba forever.
Cryptograph, a digital collectibles enterprise, has released a series of eight never-before-seen photographs of Bryant as non-fungible tokens, an increasingly popular investment option for collectors seeking unique digital properties.
"NFTs can eternalize and immortalize," said Tommy Alastra, the co-founder of Cryptograph.
They can also support charitable causes. All proceeds of the sales from the "KOBE" collection of NFTs will go to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, according to Alastra.
Bryant posed for the black-and-white images in his early 20s during a magazine shoot with photographer Davis Factor. The 1999 shoot took place at an abandoned warehouse in downtown L.A. In the photos, Bryant wears a variety of outfits as he preens for the camera.
"This shoot is special because you don't see him in a jersey," Alastra said. "He's Kobe Bean Bryant. You can see the father, the son, the husband come out. It's just him, raw, in everyday Kobe. It's special. ... They're really quite beautiful."
Alastra, a producer and actor who founded Cryptograph last year with Hugo McDonaugh, is a longtime friend of Factor's. He recently met with the photographer to review Factor's personal book project when Alastra says he "stumbled on" the Bryant series that had been in Factor's archives for more than 20 years.
"I was like, 'Hey, man, this is a great time,'" Alastra recalled. "'In about two months it's national Kobe day [on Aug. 24]. Have you ever considered what this could potentially do?'"
Factor, a Lakers season-ticket holder and the great grandson of cosmetics icon Max Factor, warmed to the idea so long as 100% of the sales went to charity, which Alastra eagerly agreed to.
"We are a for-profit company, but we make sure that every Cryptograph is anchored in philanthropy," said Alastra, who has previously worked with actors such as Jason Momoa and Ashton Kutcher to release NFTs with a charitable component. "So we have assured that a charitable organization gets a percentage of revenues at the partnership level."
Alastra said Cryptograph has been in touch with Bryant's camp, but the effort is not an official partnership with Bryant's trust. However, he hopes the eight NFTs continue to raise money for the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, in perpetuity, as Cryptograph will donate its proceeds from secondary sales as well.
"We always set our royalties at 10 or 20%," Alastra explained. "So 100% of that 10 or 20% -- wherever we decide to set that secondary royalty standard -- will go to the organization."
The images are all titled different emotions that Davis attributed to Bryant in each particular pose -- from "Easy" to "Style" to, even, "Sexy," describing a photograph in which Bryant is laying down with his shirt unbuttoned.
"He was just the most focused, determined, smart, gorgeous athlete I had ever worked with at the time," Factor said in a video interview on Crypograph's website. "I think this shoot is special, because it's one of his first fashion shoots ... I love these photographs because they show a side of Kobe that you don't usually see. He was young, at the time, and really ready to play and kind of get into the character."
The NFTs were put up for auction at 10 a.m. PT on Tuesday and will be available for bidding on Cryptograph's website for 72 hours.