Kobe Bryant and the big numbers

In the latest wrinkle to the drama that won’t end, an Italian pro basketball club is no longer entirely interested in having Kobe Bryant play 10 games.

Now its owner is also offering Bryant a one-game contract for $1 million or $2 million, depending on various reports out of Italy.

The catch: Bryant hasn’t agreed to anything.

The one-game plan is a substantial boost from Bryant’s average of $307,859 per game with the Lakers this season, assuming there are any NBA games.

Virtus Bologna owner Claudio Sabatini said he secured sponsorship money and a TV network deal for “Kobe Night,” according to Italian newspaper Il Resto del Carlino.

The parameters have definitely changed from Bologna’s initial offer of a $3.2-million, 10-game deal for Bryant to play during the NBA lockout.


Bryant could not be reached for comment.

Bryant, 33, is owed $83.5 million over the final three years of his Lakers contract. The Lakers can’t comment on any lockout matters or else they’ll be fined by the NBA, but Bryant will presumably have an insurance policy if he plays in Italy.

“There’s no way he’s playing without one, I guarantee you,” said a source familiar with the situation.

It’s rare for pro players to get seriously injured in exhibition games, but it happens.

Perhaps the worst case involved former New England Patriots running back Robert Edwards, who tore ligaments in his knee during an exhibition flag football game with other rookies in Honolulu after the 1998 season.

Edwards ran for 1,115 yards as a rookie but his NFL career was short-circuited after he tried to defend against a pass in a league-sponsored four-on-four game on the beach the same week as the Pro Bowl.

Even the top NBA official can’t do anything about Bryant and other players going overseas to make money.

“Those are their rights,” Commissioner David Stern recently said. “We have no reaction to that other than to be safe.”

Despite a minor procedure in Germany on his balky right knee in June, Bryant hasn’t acted like a porcelain figure during the off-season.

He played in two exhibition games in the Philippines in July with other NBA stars, including Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. But Bryant was the drawing card and 21,000 fans attended one game in Manila.

Then in August, Bryant quietly showed up for a Drew League game in Los Angeles and scored 43 points.

It was quite a show. With the score tied and the fans chanting, “Kobe, Kobe,” Bryant was guarded by James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Bryant hit a fall-away jumper from the top of the key for the game-winner.

Presumably, an Italian promoter would be happy with a similar performance.