We’ve all had partners in our past where, over time, the relationship ran its course due to arguing, bickering and the inability to see eye to eye.
After an ugly break-up and months of sparse communication, we hear rumors they’re seeing some European type. We remain confident there’s no way our ex’s newfound fling could ever rival the moments we once shared, but still, doubt creeps in.
Well, over the past few months of NBA labor unrest – a misnomer since these guys hardly labor – rumors have spread that, in the absence of an NBA season, some of the league’s biggest names are seeking refuge in the arms of another overseas.
Years ago, Brandon Jennings caused a splash when he thumbed his nose at both the NBA and NCAA and signed with Italy’s Lottomatica Roma. He now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, also a misnomer since the Bucks aren’t technically ‘playing.’
This summer, with the ever-increasing likelihood of a shortened, or even canceled, NBA season, New Jersey Net point guard Deron Williams has agreed to play in Turkey. Denver Nugget Kenyon Martin signed on to play in China. Joakim Noah played for the French national team. Portland Trailblazer (and Spaniard) Rudy Fernandez also returned to his homeland. And now, the league’s biggest name, Kobe Bryant, is at least considering his European tour.
Italy’s Virtus Bologna is making a hard push for the Mamba, tugging at the heartstrings of a man who once lived in Italy as a boy while his father played professional ball there. The Virtus deal is either worth $6.7 million or $3 million for a ten-game stint, depending on which reports you read. Nobody outside his inner circle knows exactly how much truth lay behind these rumors and how much is merely leverage, but Bryant’s a big bargaining chip.
What we do know is that the embattled lovers of the NBA are nowhere closer to agreement than they were months ago. They still differ on divisive issues such as revenue sharing and a hard salary cap. The owners are crying broke. With no paychecks, the players will soon be too. In the ultimate game of chicken, neither party has budged.
Say what you will about Commissioner David Stern, he is primarily responsible for making the league what it is today, which is both good AND bad. The NBA’s success relies more upon the personalities of its players than any other professional sports league. That is Stern’s doing. The NBA is also more popular overseas than ever before. That too is Stern’s handiwork. Those accomplishments may soon ironically backfire on the man who made that possible.
The NBA boasts the best basketball talent on the planet but due to as of yet irreconcilable differences, we might not get to see any of it this year, unless we tune into the European channel. It’s safe to assume NBA TV won’t be airing those ballgames. That’d be like us looking at romantic European vacation photos of our ex and their new partner.
And so we basketball fans sit, broken-hearted, watching players flee, wooed by courters of another sort. Parting can be such sweet sorrow, not to mention a huge gamble for both players and the league. It’s hard to imagine that the Association is worried any of it big names will find permanent residence elsewhere but they might want to at least consider that an option before their former partners start to realize the grass might just be greener elsewhere.