By Will Salem | NB Indy
Kobe Bryant might be seen less around town this basketball season as, with the NBA shut down by a deadlock over a new collective bargaining agreement, he is poised to sign a contract to play 10 games with Virtus Bologna in Italy.
Last week representatives from the NBA and from the players union failed to come to meaningful terms, leaving the entire NBA season in doubt. Training camps should have opened Monday but were already postponed along with the early October preseason games. Last week was the last chance to get a new deal signed before NBA commissioner David Stern was forced to postpone the start of the regular season.
There are many consequences to postponing the start of the NBA season. Of course, the owners and players are affected financially by the loss of those games, but Stern was expressing concern about the fans and “the extraordinary number of people who depend on our game for their livelihood.” Locally, sports bars like Rudy’s are going to have to show other sporting events hoping that keeps their customers coming in during game times. Sports apparel retailers like Dick’s in Fashion Island may have to hold on to basketball merchandise longer because there won’t be games to promote their sales.
Bryant was scheduled to make $25 million from the LA Lakers in salary this season, or approximately $300,000 per game. Bryant is on the verge of signing a $3 million deal with Virtus Bologna for 10 games, thereby protecting his $300,000-per-game income. The Italian deal is expected to have options to extend his contract should the NBA season be further postponed or cancelled.
In addition the deal opens up a significant endorsement market for Bryant. Basketball in Italy has been growing in popularity to become the No. 2 most played sport, still well behind soccer. Bryant is strong candidate for endorsement deals there because he was raised in Italy from 1984-1991 while his father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant played there.