No Italian Job: why Kobe Bryant won’t leave L.A. Lakers for Italy or Europe
Another day, another NBA superstar to Europe rumour. Today, media outlets are again reporting that Kobe Bryant would consider signing in Italy for a cool $50 million dollars per season.
"I’d go. I’d probably go," said Bryant, during a USA Basketball press conference on Friday morning. "Like Milan or something like that, where I grew up or something like that? Peace out." Bryant continued: "Do you know any reasonable person that would turn down 50 (million dollars)?" (Boston Globe)
Sure, no reasonable person would turn down the GDP of Botswana to play basketball. And the superstar speaks Italian and appreciates the culture after spending his formative years in the historic country. But Bryant’s decision to leave the NBA for Europe isn’t so simple.
He has sponsors. Big ones. Kobe Bryant, the player, would have to consult with fortune five hundred companies who rebuilt Kobe Bryant, the brand. Yes, Nike would have a say in any international move. While Milan isn’t exactly Oklahoma City, it isn’t the worldwide media capital of Los Angeles either.
And Milan probably lacks the finances to underwrite such a massive contract. Yesterday Henry Abbott, ESPN’s truehoop blogger, interviewed Russian basketball scribe Alexander Chernykh, who essentially argued that CSKA, Dynamo, Khimki, Olympiakos, and Panathinaikos were the only clubs capable of paying a tax-free 50 million dollar per annum contract.
Those teams are in Russia and Greece. Translation: Italian clubs can’t afford Bryant. He’s beyond their means. And unless a Russian oligarch suddenly buys the Milan franchise, the all-world guard isn’t returning to his childhood home.
He already has a great team. After years of struggling with Smush Parker and Slava Medvedenko, Bryant has a top-supporting cast. Pau Gasol is an All-Star. Dwight Howard aside, Andrew Bynum is the game’s best young five man. And Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher are talented veterans, while the bench is energetic and deep.
This group will keep L.A. competitive for years. Bryant, by signing in Italy, would pass on a possible NBA Title only to have players like Parker and Medvedenko as his European running mates.
His comments are about maximizing leverage. Bryant can opt-out of his contract after next season and become an unrestricted free agent, so the speculation helps negotiate better money and terms from the Lakers.
Right now, Bryant won’t leave the NBA for Europe. In five years, under ideal circumstances, ’Black Mamba’ could accept an ’Italian job’.