Hasmit Popat poses with the autographed mask Kobe Bryant wore in 11 games this year.
Popat operates Hascor International Group, a metals and minerals firm, and describes himself as a huge fan of the Lakers and Bryant in particular. He said he was specifically interested in this item because the proceeds went to the Bryant Family Foundation charity to benefit the homeless in Southern California.
Now Popat is the proud owner of the protective mask Bryant wore for 11 games after suffering a broken nose in the All-Star Game.
“I think it represents a part of NBA history,” Popat said. “He scored his 29,000th point with it. … It’s a very good cause. I believe in his charitable event for homeless people in Los Angeles.”
Although Popat spent his formative years in the Netherlands, he found himself drawn to the allure of the NBA.
“In Europe, basketball is not a big thing, unfortunately. It’s more about soccer, but I always liked basketball,” Popat said. “My connection to the Lakers goes back a long, long time. I’ve always followed the Lakers since the old days [in the Showtime era], and when Kobe Bryant started to play, I became a very big fan. I’ve always followed him, and I’ve been to many, many games.”
Popat said he eventually plans to sell the mask and give the proceeds to another charity, insisting he didn't purchase the mask to ever attempt to sell it for financial gain.
“In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy it,” Popat said. “I’ll have a piece [of memorabilia] of a future Hall of Famer. My purpose was to give something back and also have a piece of NBA history.”