Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant Playing in Italy Is "Very Possible"

Sean O'LearyContributor ISeptember 28, 2011

EL SEGUNDO, CA - MAY 11:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers leaves a news conference at the Lakers training facility on May 11, 2011 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers were swept out of their best of seven series with the Dallas Mavericks four games to none. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Hold on to your cannoli.

Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard and five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant is seriously courting the possibility of playing professional basketball overseas this year.

As NBA labor talks progress like the last Ice Age and the league enters day 90 of its current lockout, fears are becoming palpable that the 82 game regular season may be next on the chopping block, especially in the wake of training camp and 43 preseason games being canceled.

News of Bryant's possible departure may seem a tad deflating to the current momentum and gap closing being achieved by the owners and players, but Kobe doesn't seem to worried.

"I don't know what's going to happen over the next three or four weeks, but Italy has always been in my heart." the 13-time All-Star recently said to ESPN.com.

Numerous contract offers have been made by Virtus Bologna, a Lega Basket Serie A team. The Associated Press reports that the club's latest offer is about $2.5 million for 10 games over 40 days, starting Oct. 9 through Nov. 16.

A notable clause in the contract allows Bryant to return to the Lakers immediately if the lockout ends, which can only make that deal taste that much sweeter.

Bryant spent some of his childhood in Italy after his father, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, moved his family there to continue his basketball career. Bryant, one of three children, learned Italian, and traces a lot of his roots to his time spent in the town of Rieti.

"It's a huge honor for me to return to Italy. It's home for me," Bryant said in a video streamed by the Gazzetta, an popular Italian website.

Bryant is in unusual territory with this offer. He only stands to gain from achieving this dream of playing for a country he feels so connected to, and there is no obligation to stay abroad should the Lakers lace up this season. He can just hop on a plane and be back at Staple Center in time for warm ups.

America takes everything Kobe Bryant does very personally, and he is sure to draw heat for looking out for his own interests. Bryant disappointed in a losing effort to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals of the NBA Playoffs last season. It has been years since he could be labeled a "fan favorite," and as the Jordan comparisons fade with bad knees and missed jumpers, it will be intriguing to see how Bryant puts the finishing touches on an amazing career.

How do you say Black Mamba in Italian?