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Kobe Bryant demands revenue sharing

9/30/2011

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.