On Thursday morning, we noted reports that New Jersey Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams could be headed to play for Besiktas of Turkey if the NBA lockout continues into the fall. Besiktas is the same team that signed Allen Iverson last season.
In a Thursday afternoon interview with the New York Times, Ergin Ataman, coach of Besiktas, confirmed that the team had reached an agreement with Williams and also said his club had its eye on an even higher-profile target: Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant.
“If there’s a possibility, we’ll talk with Kobe if he’d like to play in Europe with Deron and with other guys to play we can talk with him,” Ataman said. “If Kobe would like to play with us, we will also contact his agent and maybe with him.”
Williams playing overseas is surprising. Bryant, who has $80+ million coming to him in salary over the next three seasons, playing overseas would be a shocker.
Unlike Williams, Bryant has his age and the deteriorating condition of his knee, which recently required PRP therapy, to consider. At 32, he has a decade’s worth of deep playoff runs already on his tires, and imagining Bryant playing competitively overseas is a giant red flag.
His legacy and status as one of the NBA’s All-Time greats is still very much up in the air. If he is able to win another title — or two — he leapfrogs an entire class of stars to the very upper echelons of the discussion. If he is able to pass Michael Jordan on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list, that’s another important accomplishment.
Is there any amount of money that would make risking those accomplishments by playing overseas worth it?
Earlier reports indicate that Bryant could barnstorm through China, which makes a lot of sense. By hitting the globe’s biggest market for some exhibition games, Bryant could achieve the biggest possible financial return with the minimum amount of effort expended.
These comments read a bit like a publicity stunt. Then again, with Williams apparently deciding to take the Turkish plunge, we can’t be too quick to write off anything.