Los Angeles Lakers: Serie A

Kobe Bryant demands revenue sharing

September, 30, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
In Italy, at least. One of the more interesting developments in the still developing Kobe Bryant-to-Serie A story comes courtesy of ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher:
"...Bryant is adamant that revenue from his presence in Italy benefit all 17 teams in the league's Series A division and not just Virtus [Bologna, the team for which Bryant would play].

Bryant, the source said, is aware that the entire Italian League has suffered under the current economic downturn in Europe. Part of the attraction to playing in Italy, as opposed to another foreign country, is the chance to resuscitate Italian professional basketball "as a whole," the source said."

Given the inability of NBA owners to settle on a revenue sharing formula as part of a new CBA, there's a certain irony in Bryant foisting it on a bunch of Italian teams as a condition of playing in their league. Reportedly, one option for meeting the demand for a more equitable distribution of Bryant-related profits would be for the league to renegotiate its two TV deals. Call it a hunch, but when Virtus signed Chris Douglas-Roberts, existing media deals were likely still seen as adequate.

Looking for more evidence of how monumentally large a star Bryant is? This qualifies.

It's a classy move, reflecting the reasons he's expressed for wanting to play there in the first place. A smart one, too. Kobe surely knows how potentially disruptive his presence could be, both financially and competitively. Short of suiting up for every team in the league he can't fix the latter, but he can demand measures limiting the former. If every team in Serie A benefits economically in his participation, his 10 games become a more uniformly positive experience across Italy, while decreasing the likelihood of exploitative shenanigans in how his presence is marketed.

For a guy rightly protective of his brand, these are significant considerations.

Kobe Bryant wide open to possibility of playing in Italy

September, 28, 2011
Kamenetzky 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.

Kobe offered deal from Virtus Bologna: Should he take it?

September, 23, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky

Should I stay or should I go?

With the scheduled start of the NBA season in serious doubt, this is the question facing Kobe Bryant, now that he's holding a firm offer from Virtus Bologna in Italy to play during the lockout. According to the report, Kobe has a variety of options available to him, from a full-year contract worth $6.7 million to two- and one-month deals, or even a per-game option, paying him pocket change under $740,000 per run. In any scenario, Bryant would have an out to return Stateside should the NBA season start.

There aren't yet signs indicating whether Bryant will actually accept the offer. Perhaps he's mulling it over. If so, here's a handy guide to whether donning the black and white of Virtus Bologna is worth it:

5 Reasons to Take the Offer
  1. The Experience. Kobe grew up in Italy, where his father played professionally. He loves the country, speaks the language and has talked about playing there before he hangs up the sneaks for good. Few, if any, NBA pros have as well honed a sense of basketball history as Kobe. Presumably, it encompasses not just the deeds of hoops legends, but his family history as well. The opportunity to suit up in Italy and connect to his roots while still an elite player would have understandable appeal.
  2. Virtus Bologna is a Legitimate Team. While they're not Euroleague qualifiers, Virtus is a legit squad in Serie A, one of the better leagues in Europe. He could hang with Chris Douglas-Roberts, formerly of the Bucks. The quality of competition would certainly be better than what he would have seen with, say, Besiktas.
  3. Players Play. If Kobe passes on this and other offers that come, it's not like he's going to be sitting around. He'll be playing somewhere, because that's what these guys do. If he's going to get a run one way or another, why not take advantage of the cultural opportunity for him and his family, in a league with excellent structure?
  4. The Money Ain't Bad. Setting aside for the moment questions about whether he "needs" it, $740K per home game is real cash. Put in perspective, Kobe earned $302,515 per game last season with the Lakers. They wouldn't be wasting his time, at least under the short-term, per-home game contract structure. Plus, the money would be sponsor-provided by Canadian Solar, ensuring he would actually collect (often a problem in European league contracts).
  5. Flexibility. Virtus Bologna is basically allowing Bryant to tailor his desired experience nearly exactly. He could get everything he wants out of it, and nothing he doesn't. Rarely in any profession are opportunities constructed this way.
5 Reasons to Pass on the Offer

  1. Risk, Risk, Risk. Even if he's properly insured against financial loss due to a hypothetical injury on an Italian court -- and there's no way Rob Pelinka would allow him to take the floor if he wasn't -- substantial risk still exists. With only a handful of truly elite seasons left in him, why gamble with his health in a league that will do nothing for his legacy? The man lives to win NBA titles, not a few games in an Italian League. The cultural pull to play there might understandably be strong ... but strong enough to outweigh this?
  2. Is the Money Worth It? Kobe Bryant has earned nearly $200 million over the course of his NBA career and is owed over $80 million more before his current deal with the Lakers expires. This doesn't include endorsements. Presumably, like financial bunny rabbits, his money has bred more money. Presumably, this would not be a financially driven decision. Plus, once his NBA career is over, he will still almost surely be able to play in Italy if he wants. For less money? Sure. But the aforementioned risk disappears, and he would still glean all the cultural benefits.

(Read full post)

NOTE: Our colleague Dave McMenamin is with the Lakers in Europe. Here's his latest update:

LONDON -- Ever since Kobe Bryant was a little kid growing up in Italy, he dreamed of doing what he and a handful of his Lakers teammates did Sunday.

“I used to go to Serie A games all the time and I wanted to go watch a Premier League game and my mother never let me go,” Bryant said. “At the time I wanted to watch Liverpool and teams like that and she was like, ‘No.’ So now, to finally have the opportunity, 20-something years later, to go watch a Premier match is exciting.”

Bryant and his teammates sat in the Millennium Suites at Stamford Bridge stadium to see Chelsea beat their longtime London rival Arsenal, 2-0, thanks to goals by Didier Drogba and Alex for the Blues.

It was arranged for the Lakers to meet up with the Chelsea players after the game. It is unknown whether Bryant boasted to Drogba about beating his close friend, Kevin Garnett, in the NBA Finals.

Bryant shared the story in July at his basketball academy in Santa Barbara of how he used to go to a playground in Italy to play basketball but often times there were goals set up on the outdoor court and so he would play soccer until all the children got tired, then moved the goals away and played hoops.

“It’s fun to play,” Bryant said. “It’s like basketball in many ways. It’s just a team sport with constant movement and we get a chance to see two of the best [in Chelsea and Arsenal].

“You learn [about basketball by watching soccer] -- ball movement, spacing, things like that -- but ultimately, it’s just for the fun of it.”

(Read full post)



Kobe Bryant
25.0 2.5 1.5 28.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 10.5
AssistsR. Price 4.0
StealsR. Price 2.0
BlocksE. Davis 2.0