I’m not sure if Los Angeles Lakers guard and Team USA member Kobe Bryant’s intentions to talk about playing in Europe were selfish because he’s using the press conference as leverage, or he was giving another indication that Americans playing in Europe is not such a crazy idea.
Whatever Bryant’s reason was, he certainly created a buzz for the international press to ponder over the next year, as he has the right to opt out of his contract that goes until 2011 after the 2008-'09 season. Bryant told Yahoo Sports earlier today that he is not going to sign an extension with the Lakers until he tests the global market.
“I’d go. I’d probably go,” Bryant told the Boston Globe. “Like Milan or something like that, where I grew up or something like that… Peace out. Do you know any reasonable person that would turn down 50 [million dollars]?”
It's hard to imagine Bryant giving up a chance for another championship in his prime for a season overseas but it's not out of the question.
$50 million is not out of the question for Bryant from a team in Europe, but he probably won’t get it from Italy because the owners there can’t afford to pay that amount of money.
Virtus Bologna gave Earl Boykins the highest paid contract in the Italian League at $3.5 million per year, an offer that Bryant would chuckle about. The only way he plays in Italy is if he receives an ownership/player/marketing deal with Armani Jeans Milano, owned by Georgio Armani.
Bryant currently has an ownership stake in the team, although his father, Joe, is the one who has a say for A.J. Milano.
Even if Bryant became an owner/player for A.J. Milano, he couldn’t make more than $6 million. That’s not to say the idea of going to Italy is out of the question, but his $50 million will not come directly from signing a contract.
Bryant would have to agree to a marketing deal with Armani Jeans to make this happen, something that certainly is going to be on the negotiating table after A.J. Milano finished the previous season with a 3-11 record in Euroleague. Next year, the team will be without its best player, Dalino Gallinari, the No. 6 pick in this year’s draft.
Then again, Bryant would make any Euroleague team a final four contender just with his presence, but until more details are released on the chances of Bryant signing, assume this isn’t going to happen.
That leaves us with three teams: CSKA Moscow, Olympiacos, and Pananthinaikos.
I’m not sure how much money Olympiacos has available, but the Josh Childress signing had to have made a significant dent in the team’s budget, so they’re probably the least likely of the group to sign Bryant.
Pananthinaikos and CSKA Moscow could easily afford to pay Bryant $50 million for one year. Keep in mind that figure would be after taxes, with most of his expenses paid for.
If Bryant received that offer, he could kick back half of his salary to bring some other Lakers over and still make more than he would in Los Angeles, or any other team for that matter.
No. 24 would thrive under both systems, starting at small forward since both teams have a log jam at the guard positions. Then again, no European coach is going to tell Bryant he can’t play shooting guard if he doesn’t want to, but it makes more sense for him to play as a forward since he has enough strength for the position.
Inserting Bryant into CSKA Moscow’s starting lineup would feature J.R. Holden and Trajan Langdon at guards, Bryant and Ramunas Siskauskas at forward, while David Andersen starts at center.
That lineup doesn’t even include the loaded bench CSKA will have next year. A lineup with Bryant would ensure a seventh all-time championship, and they wouldn’t miss a beat after Bryant leaves because of their depth.
Bryant signing with Pananthinaikos would also put him in an already competitive lineup with Dimitrios Diamantidis, Michael Batiste, Vassilis Spanoulis, and an awkward set up with Sarunas Jasikevicius.
After becoming the arch-nemesis for Team USA, Bryant made sure he did everything possible to shut down Jasikevicius in the exhibition game against Lithuania. Since then, the two apparently aren't fond of each other, so it would be interesting to watch them on the same team.
The next offseason will provide plenty of drama for NBA fans when Bryant could leave the league for a year, but don’t pay too much attention to talk of him going to Italy unless it’s when he retires.