Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant is one of a select few current NBA superstars who doesn’t view the idea of playing basketball in Europe as a bargaining chip in negotiations.
Unlike all of the guys who threatened to go overseas during the lockout as a way of gaining leverage over their NBA owners, Kobe’s affinity for Euro hoops is much more genuine, and actually stems from his experience growing up on the Italian game.
During a recent interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, L.A.’s biggest star was asked if he would consider playing overseas when his NBA contract expired. His answer wasn’t especially surprising.
“It would be natural for me to go do it. It wouldn't be a stretch at all. I grew up here."
Kobe has two years left on his current deal with the Lakers. Over the past few weeks, he has repeatedly noted that he might call it quits with the NBA when those two years are up. That’s not to say he's packing his bags and preparing to skip town already; rather, he’s just looking ahead at what the future holds.
Even though his NBA swan song is some ways away, Kobe did make it clear that he’s aware of what’s going on overseas.
"You'd have to look at the market and what's going on in terms of the level of basketball being played," Bryant said. "I understand there's a high level of competitive basketball in Turkey now. They might have the best league in Europe. Spain has obviously been one of the top leagues for a long time.
"And Italy is a place that's dear in my heart, I grew up there, but the level is not where it used to be. When I was growing up over there, that was the best league in Europe."
Transitioning to Euro ball in two years makes all sorts of sense if you’re Kobe. At that point he’ll no longer be able to dominate the American game the way he has for the last decade, so it stands to reason that he would want to leave rather than get embarrassed on a nightly basis. At the same time, his grasp of the fundamentals and high basketball IQ would make a him a perfect fit overseas.
A number of players including Paul Pierce and Metta World Peace have indicated that they might play elsewhere when their NBA days are over, but it’s doubtful that they ever will. Kobe, though – he may actually end up doing it.
(Kudos Yahoo! Sports)