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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Kobe Bryant wide open to possibility of playing in Italy

By Brian Kamenetzky

Traveling to Italy this fall? You might get a chance to add a basketball arena to your list of must-see destinations. Speaking to the Gazzetta dello Sport in Milan during a sponsor appearance, Bryant called playing in Italy "very possible."

"It would be a dream for me," he continued. "There's an opportunity that we've been discussing over the last few days. It's very possible and that's good news for me."

The report says the opportunity in question, an offer from Virtus Bologna of Serie A, is a deal for 10 games over between Oct. 9 and Nov. 16, worth $2.5 million.

When news of Virtus' interest in Kobe surfaced last week, I wrote about all the pros and cons. On balance, I thought it was a tempting offer he ought to pass up. My concerns aren't really about the risk of injury, though it's a consideration, but in other things. What does it look like for Kobe, who has the financial resources to withstand a lockout (and even help others to do the same) to snap up one of a shrinking pool of available roster slots in European leagues, potentially freezing out a member of the NBPA's rank and file from a needed paying gig? What about team-centered workouts? At some point, shouldn't the Lakers engage in them, and can Bryant do that while playing overseas?

Those issues are still very much worth raising, but whether with Virtus or another team, should Kobe agree terms similar to ones reported above he'll address one serious question leaving him open to criticism regarding any overseas offer - that of the money grab. 10 games and $2.5 mil is clearly not a major financial windfall for someone of Bryant's immense stature. He'd clearly be accepting the offer because of the personal significance of playing in Italy, where he spent part of his childhood.

It would be about the experience, which (going back to my list) is absolutely the best reason to take the offer, and the hardest to begrudge.