Lakers all-star G Kobe Bryant purchased a 50 percent interest in Olimpia Milano, one of Italy's most successful and popular professional basketball teams.
The acquisition is believed to mark the first time an active professional athlete has acquired a substantial interest in another professional sports team, according to Bryant's agent, Arn Tellem. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
Pasquale Caputo, who purchased Olimpia Milano in August, will retain the remaining 50 percent ownership.
Bryant, 21, grew up and attended school in Italy until eighth grade, while his father, Joe Bryant, played in the International Professional Basketball League.
"I have always had a special place in my heart for the country and its people," Bryant said. "This fulfills my desire to reconnect with Italy, while also providing future business opportunities in basketball."
WORLDWIDE BAN: Stanley Roberts, banned from the NBA last month under the league's toughened drug policy, is being prevented from playing overseas, too.
Roberts learned last weekend that he has been banned by FIBA, the sport's international governing body, from signing with Efes Pilsen in Turkey.
"This amounts to a worldwide ban and has ominous repercussions for all NBA players," Roberts's agent, Oscar Schoenfeld, said.
Schoenfeld said FIBA's decision was linked to Roberts getting kicked out of the NBA last month after testing positive for what the league called an "amphetamine-based designer drug."