Is Kobe Bryant the next NBA superstar to head overseas during the lockout?
If Turkish club Besiktas had its way he would join Deron Williams and Zaza Pachulia on the floor for the Istanbul team next season should the work stoppage continue.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday that Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman wants Kobe on his team.
Ataman certainly made it sound simple enough:
“If Kobe doesn’t want to miss a whole season if there’s a lockout, and likes to live in one of Europe’s greatest cities, in Istanbul, and wants to play with Deron Williams, why not?
This report is not as unbelievable as first glance might make it appear. Kobe Bryant grew up in Italy, and has a large endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines as well as several other companies who do business in Turkey.
He told Darren Rovell of CNBC Sports, “"I've never been to Turkey, but all the guys on the team in the league who have been keep saying it's one of the hottest places to go to." His popularity in Europe outstrips most basketball superstars, so a move into that market is feasible for Bryant. Sources close to Kobe also told Yahoo! Sports that he was willing to entertain offers from overseas, and while playing in Asia or Europe would also be options for the star, Istanbul could become his next destination.
Who will be the next superstar to look abroad during the NBA lockout? If either Bryant or Williams follows through on his reported interest it could do wonders to elevate foreign leagues’ popularity in their domestic markets. It is mid-July and the end of the work stoppage does not seem imminent, so who is to say Bryant and Williams are not just the beginning of an exodus overseas.