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Kobe Bryant should decline offer to play in Italy

September 26, 2011 |  9:18 am

63834627The $6.7-million contract offer for Kobe Bryant to play for the Italian team Virtus Bologna seems enticing.

The team reportedly has given him four different options, with deals ranging from one year, two months, one month and even a per-game basis.

Bryant playing in Italy sounds more realistic than most deals, considering he lived there during his childhood, speaks fluent Italian and has often mentioned that he wants to return there to cap  his storied NBA career.

And with the league postponing training camp and 43 exhibition games because of bogged-down collective-bargaining negotiations, what else should Bryant do? Easy. Confine any overseas ventures strictly to promotional appearances, such as his scheduled trips this week for Nike in Rome and Milan. 

Virtus Bologna's legitimacy in Serie A, the lack of  progress in NBA labor talks and the contract's dollar figure and flexibility don't  change the reality that Bryant needs to rest his injured body as much as possible.

Bryant may be competitive, but competitive overseas games won't elevate his play or keep him safe from further injuries. Rest, treatment and intense workouts will do the trick.

Some believe that Bryant signing overseas would put more pressure on the league and players union to iron out a labor deal. But it remains unclear whether that would happen or if it would only weaken the union's effort, since overseas opportunities would remain scarce for utility players. 

This offer sounds more legitimate than the one from the Turkish basketball club, Besiktas, which was seeking a sponsor to land Bryant earlier this off-season. But Virtus Bologna's offer doesn't nearly match the three-year, $83.5 million contract he has with the Lakers. 

That's why it shouldn't be surprising, as The Times' Mike Bresnahan reported, that it's "far from certain" Bryant would play there.  Regardless of the offers from overseas teams, nothing will prove more enticing than ensuring Bryant enters the next NBA season as healthy as possible. After all, Bryant's chance to secure another NBA championship is bigger than anything he can accomplish playing overseas. 


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-- Mark Medina

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