Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Sues Auction House to Get Bruce Lee Poster Back

By Brett Snider, Esq. on July 30, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is suing a Beverly Hills auction house to get some prized possessions back, claiming they're holding his property "hostage."

According to the suit, Julien's Auction House had initially been contracted in 2012 to sell 400 of Abdul-Jabbar's treasures, but the deal fell through when he decided not to sell some of the pieces, reports TMZ. One of the items in contention was a poster for the movie "Game of Death" signed by Bruce Lee, who made the film with Abdul-Jabbar.

Will Abdul-Jabbar pry his poster from Julien's kung-fu grip?

When Deals Go Sour...

Celebrities are somewhat notorious for reneging on deals, but in the law's eyes, there's really nothing personal about it. When you breach a contract for sale or services, a court will typically just ask that the breaching party pay to make the injured party whole again. Sometimes it may be as simple as canceling the contract and letting both parties go their separate ways, but many times it involves paying for the financial losses incurred by the loss of the deal.

Julien's had likely lined up buyers for the items which Abdul-Jabbar now wants back, and the auction house was probably entitled to some form of monetary compensation. TMZ reports that the athlete-turned-actor admits that Julien's was "awarded monetary damages," but he claims his possessions are being held "hostage" until Julien's is paid.

So it appears that the contract breach issue in Adbul-Jabbar's case has already been dealt with -- he just wants his stuff back.

Pay First or Pay After?

John Wu-style action movies often have moments when two characters stand off with guns drawn, demanding one side start the agreed-upon exchange first. That's essentially the case here.

Abdul-Jabbar has been ordered by a court to pay Julien's for the contract breach; however, he is still legally entitled to his stuff, including that Bruce Lee poster. (FYI, Abdul-Jabbar was in several movies with Bruce Lee, including "Enter The Dragon." This may explain why the sports legend is so adamant about getting this poster back, along with nearly 200 other items.)

If Abdul-Jabbar sued Julien's for replevin, he may have to prove that under California law he has the right to the return of his items before satisfying any monetary judgments against him. A court may need to determine whether the Bruce Lee poster and other sentimental items are being wrongfully detained before they may be returned to their owner.

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