BEIJING – If Italy comes knocking with big money next summer, the NBA could lose its biggest star in Kobe Bryant.
When asked by The Boston Globe about a report that LeBron James would strongly consider playing in Europe for $50 million for one season when he becomes a free agent in two years, Bryant said he would take a similar deal by a pro team in Italy if offered when he becomes a free agent next summer. Such would be a devestating loss for the NBA since the Los Angeles Lakers star was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player last season and considered its most popular player. The Associated Press originally reported that Bryant could have interest in playing professionally in Europe.
“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)?”
Bryant spent a large part of his childhood growing up in Italy while his father, Joe, played professional basketball there and speaks fluent Italian. In 1999, the 10-time NBA All-Star also acquired a 50 percent ownership of the Olimpia Milano of the Italian Professional Basketball League.
“Because I grew up in Italy it has more significance to me because I’m more familiar with it, I’ve been there and I still have friends there,” said Bryant, a three-time NBA champion. “I’m thinking about buying a house out there. It would be nothing to me to be able to do that.”
ESPN.com reported that a person close to James said Tuesday that the Cavaliers' superstar would strongly consider playing overseas if he was offered a salary of "around $50 million a year." ESPN also reported that Russia CSKA Moscow and Greece Olympiacos have already contacted James, but nothing has been discussed monetarily. Considering the Euro versus the American dollar and that European teams have no salary cap, a contract paying $50 million American wouldn’t be out the realm of possibility.