Bloomberg News

Bryant Said to Get Offer to Play in Italy; Rival Teams Opposed

September 30, 2011

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant may get $3 million to play about 10 games in Italy for Virtus Bologna during the National Basketball Association’s lockout, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

“We agreed on the financial terms of the deal with Bryant last night,” Virtus owner Claudio Sabatini told Italian television network Sky Sport 24 in a telephone interview.

The team said in a later statement posted on its website that opposition from some Italian teams to Bologna’s request to decide the schedule of Bryant’s games “calls into question the economic basis of the project to bring Bryant in Italy.”

The Bologna team and the 33-year-old reached a verbal agreement and he will be in the northern Italian city Oct. 5 to sign the contract, according to the person, who declined to be named because the talks are private. Bryant may play for the team that has won 15 championships in Italy’s top league.

Bryant grew up in Italy because his father Joe, a former Philadelphia 76ers forward, played in the country for seven seasons from 1984 to 1991. The Bryants lived in Reggio Emilia, a city located 75 kilometers (46 miles) north of Bologna, from 1989 to 1991 and Kobe Bryant speaks Italian fluently.

“It’s very possible that I will play in Italy,” Bryant told Italian daily La Gazzetta Dello Sport in Milan Sept. 28. He spoke in Italian while attending an event in Milan that day.

Top Earner

Bryant is the NBA’s top earner, according to Forbes magazine. He had a salary of $24.8 million, $4.3 million more than the Washington Wizards’s Rashard Lewis, the next highest paid player, the magazine reported last November.

A call placed outside of business hours to the Los Angeles offices of Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka, wasn’t immediately returned.

Italian teams are offering NBA players to play in the country until the start of the North American season, which may be delayed or canceled over talks on a new labor contract. The top negotiators for the NBA and Players Association will meet today with both the owners’ labor-relations committee and the union’s executive body. The regular season is scheduled to start Nov. 1.

Olimpia Milano, the Milan-team owned by Italian designer Giorgio Armani, signed the Denver Nuggets’s Danilo Gallinari. Virtus Roma also is in talks with the Toronto Raptors’s Andrea Bargnani, Italian daily la Repubblica reported Sept. 21.

In 1998, the last time there was an NBA lockout, the first postponement came on Sept. 24, when the league delayed training camp, which was set to begin Oct. 5. The season was shortened to 50 games from 82 after an agreement was reached in January 1999.

--Editors: Dan Liefgreen, Christopher Elser

To contact the reporter on this story: Tommaso Ebhardt in Milan at tebhardt@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net.


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