Kobe’s Overseas Option Part III: The Italian Job?

Darius Soriano —  September 23, 2011




Kobe Bryant has been courted by the world during the NBA’s labor unrest and the latest offer from Italian Club Virtus Bologna is a doozy:

Kobe Bryant has been offered a $6.7 million, one-season contract to play for the Italian team Virtus Bologna, appealing to his childhood memories of growing up in the country…Virtus has given Bryant four contract options, stretching from the one-year deal to two-month and one-month options, and a per-game deal that would come out to $739,640 per home game.

On the surface, this is a win-win for #24. He can go back to a country he enjoyed in his youth, follow in the footsteps of his father, further enhance his global brand, and make a nice piece of coin in the process. If the only considerations were how to maximize the money going into his bank account, the reports would probably read “Kobe signs in Italy” rather than detailing the terms of the offer.

But those aren’t the only considerations; there are downsides here. The ever prescient Kelly Dwyer brings up a few good points about why Kobe wouldn’t want to go – citing family, wear and tear on is body, and his loyalty and connection to the Lakers as strong pulls to simply remain stateside and get ready for an NBA season.

This is not an easy choice but, ultimately, I see Kobe staying home. Beyond the reasons Dwyer lists, I simply don’t envision Kobe agreeing to join a full fledged league where he’d be competing every night for a team with larger goals than just trotting him out to fill an arena (though that’s obviously a part of why overseas teams want NBA players). This isn’t an exhibition game in the Phillipines or a glorified pick up game in a local summer pro-am. These games count and Kobe, even some don’t want to admit it, understands the fabric of a team and how a season is a process that a group goes through together in building towards a common goal. I simply can’t see him jumping into the fray with another team if it’s not a real commitment to help them. He’s already made that commitment to the Lakers and he has unfinished business with them from last season.


Speaking of next season, the question still remains when we’ll actually see games being played.

It turns out, a bit later than scheduled. The NBA has announced that the league has cancelled 43 pre-season games and postponed the start of training camps. Of those 43 games, 3 were Lakers games: October 9th vs Golden State (Fresno, Ca), October 12th vs. Atlanta (Ontario, Ca), and October 15th vs. Atlanta (at Staples).

Pre-season games being missed doesn’t really concern me (I thought this tweet summed up how I feel about it) but I do feel bad for fans in Fresno and Ontario that don’t often get the chance to see the team in person and now have one of those few opportunities squashed by the league.

As for the real season, there is still some hope that the games will start on time. Ken Berger, in his summary of Thursday’s meetings, reports that there has been some movement by the owners and those steps towards the middle are important towards finding a resolution:

…what happened here actually had the potential to be productive. For the first time since their initial proposal in January 2010 — when they offered a $45 million hard cap that would deliver the players well below 50 percent of BRI — the owners proposed a revised BRI split that was closer to, but still below what the players have indicated they would be willing to accept. In this impossibly slow negotiating dance, that qualifies as progress.

The owners’ number, one of the people familiar with the details said, represented a willingness to move off their most recent formal proposal to cap player salaries at $2 billion a year for the bulk of a 10-year proposal. So, do the math: Assuming 4 percent revenue growth next season to $3.95 billion, the owners’ $2 billion proposal represented roughly 50.5 percent of BRI for the players. If the players were willing to go down to, say, 53 percent with assurances that a soft cap would remain in place, that would be $2.094 billion — leaving the two sides only $94 million apart in the first year of the deal.

Given that the owners moved off their $2 billion to somewhere between that and the players’ number, we’re talking about perhaps as little as $75 million per year holding up the future of the NBA. That’s why, as one person familiar with the talks said Thursday, a deal is “there for the taking.”

When will each side be ready to take it? Not yet. Not Thursday, and maybe not next week, either. The drop-dead date to preserve the season intact — Oct. 13 or 14 — is still three weeks away.

Darius Soriano

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