Italian 'tribute' to Kobe Bryant on table?

Updated: October 18, 2011, 10:12 AM ET
ESPNLosAngeles.com

The owner of Italian League team Virtus Bologna is making a last-ditch effort to get Kobe Bryant to play at least one game for his team.

Faced with television rights and scheduling issues, Claudio Sabatini has offered the Los Angeles Lakers star between $1 million and $2 million to play in one exhibition game, a "Tribute to Kobe" sometime in October in Bologna, according to multiple media reports in Italy.

A team spokesman told ESPNdeportesLosAngeles.com that negotiations between the team and Bryant's representatives would take place Thursday by conference call.

"Negotiations with Mr. Kobe Bryant have been very difficult," said Vicenzo Di Schiavia, the team's communications manager. "We will not make any comment for now."

Sabatini has secured sponsorship in Italy and says he hopes to make up the rest of the money to put on the game by offering TV rights to American stations.

Virtus Bologna initially had tried to persuade Bryant to play up to 10 games, but the team has decided on an exhibition in order to get around scheduling problems and TV rights issues in Italy.

"I had to make this decision because it was the only way to be able to show 'The Tribute to Kobe' to the whole world," Sabatini said last week, according to il Resto del Carlino. "If we had done a league game, we would have had problems trying to show it also in Italy."

La Reppublica, a publication based in Bologna, reported on its website that Bryant had been offered $2.3 million to play in the exhibition in the next two weeks.

Bryant's compensation would be paid by the team's sponsors. But Bryant's current endorsements deals might not allow him to fulfill those sponsorship deals, according to the report in La Reppublica.

The two possible exhibition dates mentioned in the reports are Oct. 19 or Oct. 26, but no opponent has been named yet.

Bryant lived in Italy during his childhood while his father, Joe Bryant, played in the Italian League. Joe Bryant is currently the coach of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.

Alfredo R. Berrios of ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com contributed to this report.

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