- Associated Press - Friday, September 23, 2011

ROME (AP) - Kobe Bryant has been offered a $6.7 million, one-season contract to play for the Italian team Virtus Bologna, appealing to his childhood memories of growing up in the country.

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar spent part of his youth in Italy while his father played there. He speaks Italian, prompting Bologna to hope he might return if there’s an NBA lockout.

Virtus Bologna general manager Massimo Faraoni tells The Associated Press he’s been on conference calls between Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka, Bologna president Claudio Sabatini and main sponsor Canadian Solar, which would provide the cash for such a deal.

“I think the fact that he’s lived in Italy makes this appealing to him,” Faraoni said.


Virtus has given Bryant four different contract options, stretching from the one-year deal to two-month and one-month options, and a per-game deal that would come out to $739,640 per home game.

All of the offers are pretax and would allow Bryant to return to the Lakers immediately if the lockout ends.

Canadian Solar said its not directly involved in the dealings.

“The contract is being negotiated between Virtus and Kobe Bryant’s agent. Canadian Solar is not at the negotiating table,” said a statement from the company provided to The AP.

Turkish club Besiktas and at least one team in China have expressed interest in the 33-year-old Bryant, who has won five NBA championships and been an All-Star 13 times.

Faraoni watched Bryant when he played in Pistoia’s youth system in the late 1980s.

“I saw him when he was a kid, and he already had a lot of passion for the game then,” Faraoni said.

Bryant’s father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played in Italy with Rieti, Reggio Calabria, Pistoia and Reggiana from 1984-1991. The elder Bryant now coaches the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA.

Virtus also reached out to Manu Ginobili, who played with Bologna before joining the San Antonio Spurs in 2002. Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari rejoined his former Italian club Olimpia Milano on Tuesday.

Other NBA players are committing to play in leagues outside the United States.

Nuggets free agents Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith plan to play in China, Denver’s Ty Lawson will play in Lithuania and New Jersey Nets All-Star Deron Williams signed with Turkish club Besiktas.

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