Kobe Bryant may take his talents to China during the NBA’s lockout.
There are preliminary talks about a basketball tour to China this summer — and perhaps beyond — in which the Lakers superstar, who has called China a “home away from home” and has an enormous following there, would be the headliner with several other NBA stars forming two or three barnstorming teams.
Bryant and his agent Rob Pelinka are trying to put together the tour, said Minnesota Timberwolves rookie forward Derrick Williams, who also is represented by Pelinka.
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Williams said several clients of Pelinka’s agency, the Landmark Sports Agency, could be involved in the tour.
“Hopefully I would be able to do that because I’ve never been out of the country and I think that would be the best thing for me,” said Williams, the former La Mirada High and University of Arizona star who was drafted second overall in June’s NBA draft.
Pelinka’s agency lists 18 NBA players as clients, including Clippers Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon, along with former USC star and Memphis Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo, and Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer.
If the barnstorming tour happens, the games are likely to take place at the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. Bryant signed a three-year deal with Mercedes-Benz in February to become the brand ambassador for Smart micro cars in China and he has already been featured in a TV commercial for the car.
Pelinka declined to comment.
One interesting name on the potential list of NBA players on the tour is Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who is a Pelinka client.
Fisher is also the president of the NBA players union, which has battled the owners in a lengthy labor dispute that culminated with the owners imposing a lockout of players at 9:01 p.m. PDT Thursday, when the previous labor agreement expired.
It’s unclear how long the lockout will last.
If Fisher took part in an overseas tour, it could be seen as a slap in the face to the NBA.
“I can’t tell you he wouldn’t be interested in [the tour], but as of right now that’s not something that’s being brought to our attention at all,” said Jamie Wior, Fisher’s publicist.