This weekend Kobe Bryant will know whether he needs to report to camp in Los Angeles or Italy. Either way, Bryant will be someplace he considers home. And either way, Bryant will be doing what he loves — playing basketball.
The Associated Press reports Virtus Bologna has reached an agreement with Bryant to play in Italy during the NBA lockout. The AP reports Kobe Bryant will receive $3 million for the opening 40 days of the Italian season. Virtus president Claudio Sabatini said Bryant should be in Bologna by Wednesday or Thursday to finalize terms and take a physical.
The AP report said the deal was 95 percent done, but Yahoo! Sports reports that despite the statements from Bologna’s president claiming the deal is near completion, sources close to the talks warn an agreement is not imminent. Nothing is set in stone quite yet.
If Bryant goes through with this plan, as it seems he will, he would become the second big-name player to make the trip overseas after Deron Williams began play for Besiktas in Turkey earlier this week.
Bologna’s season begins Oct. 9. The contract will allow Bryant to leave the team if and when the NBA returns. The contract should last about 10 games. For comparison, Bryant would make about $308,000 per game in the NBA. His contract with Bologna will net him about $300,000. So Virtus appears to be paying the going rate for Bryant’s services.
Bryant spent a good portion of his childhood in Italy while his father, Joe Bryant, was playing there. It is still a place Kobe considers home.
“Italy is my home. It’s where my dream of playing in the NBA started. This is where I learned the fundamentals, learned to shoot, to pass and to (move) without the ball,” Bryant told the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. “All things that when I came back to America the players my age didn’t know how to do because they were only thinking about jumping and dunking.”
Bryant very much appreciates his upbringing in Italy and how it helped him develop as a player. That much is clear. And Bryant is a basketball junkie. Nobody thought he would go the lockout without trying to play competitive basketball some where. That is who Bryant is.
Bryant though, as much as any player, might need some time off despite his inclination to always be playing. Bryant has more or less played basketball straight through for a few years now. And this means competitive, high-level basketball. Bryant has fought off several injuries in recent years and remained stellar despite these injuries.
There are those who hope Bryant takes some deserved time off to get healthy so he can display his overall brilliance during the NBA season. But nobody is going to tell Bryant he can’t play basketball.
Whether he will be doing that in Italy or Los Angeles, that remains to be seen.