Bryant deal "95 per cent done," say Bologna
(Reuters) - NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant was on the verge of making a remarkable move to the modest Italian basketball arena on Friday after Virtus Bologna president Claudio Sabatini described the deal as "95 per cent done."
With the NBA in lockout, the Los Angeles Lakers player could be set for a return to Italy having been brought up in the country when his father played there for several clubs.
"We have reached a financial agreement," Sabatini was quoted as saying by Italian media.
"I've gone beyond my last offer of three million dollars gross. Now we have to discuss the benefits. There are still some things to work out but I'm very optimistic -- it's 95 per cent done."
Talks with the shooting guard had initially hit a snag with the American asking for a season's contract and the club, unsure of when the NBA lockout might end, offering a game by game deal.
"We've reached a compromise," said Sabatini, revealing the new deal would be for 10 games. "We just need the two signatures now. We couldn't allow it to be any longer."
"It's been my dream to play here," the 33-year-old, who speaks perfect Italian, told Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
"Italy is my home where my dream of playing in the NBA began. Here I learned the basics: to throw, pass, move without the ball -- all the things that when I returned to America my peers didn't know because they just thought about jumping and pressing."
"It's an important investment," said Sabatini, who has been pushing for more media exposure of basketball in a country dominated by soccer.
"This is a unique moment not just for Bologna but for Italian basketball. I hope...the city gets behind the team."
Although still among Europe's top three leagues, Italian basketball has been overtaken by the Spanish game since the start of the new millennium.
The American NBA season, which was scheduled to begin on November 1, has been in lockout after owners and players failed to sign a collective deal on salary structure and the distribution of revenues.
Turkey's Besiktas have also said they want to sign Bryant.
(Writing by Richard Allen in Rome; Editing by Mark Meadows)