Kobe pushing for contract in Italy

Kobe Bryant(notes) is pushing forward with the negotiation of a complex agreement with Virtus Bologna that the Los Angeles Lakers star hopes will create a partnership with the teams in the struggling Italian League to share in the financial benefits of his arrival there, sources with knowledge of the talks told Yahoo! Sports.

Bryant, who spent several years of his youth living in Italy, has been working with his representatives, Virtus and the Italian League to structure a complex deal in which Virtus wouldn't be the only team getting stronger financially at the expense of the rest of the league. If the NBA lockout continues, sources said Bryant has a strong desire to make an agreement with the Italian League work. There are several complicated licensing and rights fees agreements that are being worked on with Italian League officials.

Complicating the talks has been the carnival barking of Virtus Bologna general manager Claudio Sabatini, who has made public almost daily updates of financial offers made to Bryant, and on Friday called an agreement with Bryant “95 percent” in place. As Sabatini has tried to generate publicity for himself and his team, the broader talks with the league have been hampered, sources said.

Nevertheless, Bryant wants a way to play during the work stoppage in Italy, as one source said, “and wants to do it with the least possible disruption of the Italian schedule and the league.”

Bryant made several stops in Italy the past week on a sneaker tour and remains immensely popular in the country. Bryant's father, Joe Bryant, played professional basketball in Italy, and that plays a big part in Bryant’s affinity for the league and country.

Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia shaping up as horse race
Video: Can anyone beat the Phillies?
More than luck behind Evan Longoria's historic homer