UPDATE 2:37 pm: It didn’t take long for Kobe’s people to shoot this idea down. As expected, Kobe’s people deny there is a deal, here is the tweet from ESPN’s Chris Broussard who talked with a source:
Contrary to reports out of China, Kobe hasn’t agreed to deal w/any team, source says. He’s still weighing all options.
I still think he doesn’t sign anywhere, and China may not be an option now anyway.
10:39 am: I think this happening is about as likely as Kanye West becoming the next President of the United States.
Yet I will pass it along because it’s too big to ignore.
The Chinese publication sohu.com is reporting that Kobe Bryant has agreed to terms to play for Shanxi Zhongyu in China next season (via Hoopshype). The publication says the team president is the source.
There are a few reasons not to buy this. For one, Kobe reportedly is not that close to making a decision on what to do during the lockout. It is very possible that Shanxi Zhongyu is one of the hundreds of teams that have reached out to Kobe and his agent looking to make a deal. But that is very different than Kobe signing on the dotted line. In the end I’d be shocked if Kobe signs anywhere (he wants another ring badly and his knees could use the rest).
Another reason is that China has moved to block NBA players under contract from coming in to the league.
Chinese league officials have put out a list of 108 free agents from the NBA that teams can sign for a full season. Players not on that list — players like Kobe with an NBA deal — cannot be signed.
I know, it’s very un-American to think that way, to say that you can’t bring in a star that would win games, sell tickets and sell merchandise even if it is for a short time. But the Chinese league is run by the Chinese government, the same people who try to limit internet access and limit families to one child. They are not afraid of big, stupid moves. In this case, they think renting NBA players would hurt development of Chinese players and the Chinese national team, so they won’t do it.
Kobe has an NBA deal for next season (for $25 million, he will be the highest paid player in the league). So, he is not on the list of players Chinese teams can sign.
But the report is out there, and you can believe it if you want President West.