For the past few weeks, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has been hinting that he would like to play in Italy during the NBA Lockout. According to an Associated Press report, that seems to be incredibly likely at this point.
Italian club Virtus Bologna said it has reached a verbal agreement with Kobe Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers star to play in Italy during the NBA lockout.
"We have reached an economic deal," Virtus president Claudio Sabatini told a local radio station. "There's still some things to arrange but at this point I'm very optimistic. I would say it's 95 percent done."
The contract makes perfect sense for Bryant as it will only last for the first 40 days of the Italian league season and is reportedly for a whopping $3 million. The contract only binds Bryant for 10 games, and he would be allowed to return to the NBA immediately upon the NBA Lockout's conclusion.
Nothing has been set in stone yet, but all signs point to an official deal being reached at some point in the next week.
"Kobe should be in Bologna by Wednesday or Thursday with his visa in hand for medical visits and then we can deposit the contract with the league," Sabatini said. "I want to make clear that right now there are still no signatures. We've got to write the contract, which will then be read over and over again."
With the proposed deal, Bryant gets an excellent pay day, a "vacation" in Italy and the opportunity to tune up for the NBA season if it ever comes to fruition. The signing would also be a major coup for Italian basketball as it's popularity would likely soar domestically and across the globe thanks to Bryant's star power.
If the NBA season is cancelled, then I'm sure Virtus Bologna and Bryant would be able to work out an extended contract that would keep him there for the remainder of the season. A big fish like Bryant making the jump may also inspire other star players to do the same.
The only worrisome aspect about Bryant possibly going to Italy is that he may decide to stay and never return to the NBA should the 2011-12 season be cancelled. He has long talked about how he would love to return to Italy someday as he lived there for a while as a child when his father played professional basketball.
Bryant has achieved everything there is to achieve in the NBA and has nothing left to prove. Ultimately, I think Bryant craves elite competition, and he won't get that in Italy. Bryant will probably have a great experience in Italy, but once the lockout is settled, I'm sure Kobe will be on the first flight back to LA.