Taking their talents to Turkey, Kobe Bryant in talks with Besiktas to join Deron Williams

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In 2008, Josh Childress opted to forego re-signing with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and, instead, signed a three-year $30 million deal with Olympiakos Piraeus in Greece. That same year, Brandon Jennings, who currently plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, chose to play professional in Italy instead of attending college.

Now, with the NBA’s current lockout, it appears more NBA players are taking their talents overseas, or at least considering the idea. Many were surprised when New Jersey Net point guard Deron Williams signed a provisional contract with Besiktas in Turkey. That same club is now attempting to lure five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant away as well.

A week after Besiktas signed Williams, they announced they were in talks with Bryant’s agent about Bryant also joining the team.

Kobe Bryant

“It is a fact that Kobe Bryant’s managers have contacted us,” Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman said Thursday.
Besiktas reportedly offered Bryant a monthly salary of $500,000, however Bryant is said to be seeking a $1 million monthly contract instead.

Should Bryant choose to join the Turkish club, it would mark the third NBA All-Star signed by Besiktas in the last two years. They signed 2001 NBA MVP Allan Iverson last year, but his career was cut short due to injuries.

Last week, Williams became the first high-profile NBA star to sign a professional contract in the event the NBA doesn’t resume play by October. His contract will pay him $5 million if he plays a full season. The contract also included an automatic opt-out clause should Williams return to the NBA when it returns to action.

Williams wasn’t the only New Jersey Net who signed with a Turkish club last week. 27-year-old Sasha Vujacic signed a one-year deal with an option for a second year with Turkish club Anadolu Efes. Also, Nets draft pick Bojan Bogdanovic, a forward from Bosnia signed with Fenerbahce of the Turkish League in June.

The exodus of NBA players to Europe and Asia could increase in the near future. Two-time reigning Defensive Player-of-the-Year Dwight Howard announced he would consider playing in China or Europe as well, but said he has not yet been in contact with any teams.

Dwight Howard

“The big thing for me is not giving too much information away, but at the same time I still need to let people know what’s going on with me,” Howard said. “I don’t want to just sit over here and forget about basketball and waste, you know, opportunities for me to get better.”

With the NBA labor agreement projected to last well past October, Bryant, Williams and Howard won’t be the only big-name players leaving the United States for actual basketball opportunities abroad.

Photos courtesy Boixoesnous and Keith Allison via Flickr

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