Bryant and Lakers to play London pre-season game

By Michael Szabo

LONDON (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant, one of the biggest names in basketball, will play his first NBA game outside the U.S. when he leads his champion Los Angeles Lakers against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a pre-season game in London on October 4.

Minnesota will also play the New York Knicks in Paris on October 6 as part of a four-game European pre-season tour, the NBA said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Knicks will take on Milan on October 4 and the Lakers visit Barcelona three days later.

"It is my intention that prior to the Olympics, we will play regular season games in London ... That's my statement and I'm fully expecting to deliver on it," he said.

This will be the fifth straight year the NBA has held pre-season games in Europe and the fourth year it will play at London's O2 Arena.

"I know how passionate fans are in the UK and I look forward to putting on a show for what promises to be a great game," said Bryant.

Minnesota played a sold out London pre-season game against the Boston Celtics in 2007, who went on to win the NBA championship that season.

Last October, the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in a last-second thriller in London [ID:nL6456742].

(Reporting by Michael Szabo, editing by Justin Palmer)