No one has really been able to rationalize completely the reasoning behind the Los Angeles Lakers giving Kobe Bryant a two year extension that keeps him as the highest paid player in the NBA. But is this really such a bad thing to happen? It might mean the Lakers aren’t going to be able to give Bryant that sixth title ring he thinks he’s going to get, but it does make a case for franchises compensating players for some years of underpaying them.
Not that Bryant has been underpaid – He has made $279 million from his NBA salary alone since entering the NBA, getting paid an eight-figure salary since the 2000-2001 season. Bryant himself tweeted and talked about the hypocrisy of the media, and that it’s not wrong for a player to look for a maximum pay if he thinks he can get one, instead of saving some money for the billionaire owners.
And there is the matter of loylaty, which we rarely see in the NBA these days. It’s either money or championships that fuel a player’s motivation. Bryant did get money from the Lakers, but according to him, it wasn’t a negotiations. The contract and offer were there from the start. All he had to do was nod, grin and sign. It might speak volumes for the people leading the Lakers now after so many years of unrivaled success and consistency in a negative way, but there’s a small part of there rationale that does deserve a bit of praise.
Will people in Southern California riot if Kobe Bryant suddenly doesn’t play for the Los Angeles Lakers? Probably not, although when we wrote a post about trading him 18 months ago, some comments suggested that will happen if the Lakers ever try and get rid of him. Keeping Kobe Bryant is a financial decision, maybe more than anything else. It might be the wrong one professionally – there are at least a dozen players in the NBA better than Bryant and making a lot less money than him, but it makes sense financially.
Does Bryant realistically think he can win the sixth title ring? He probably does. Big egos come with huge self belief, and Bryant thinks that his talent is enough to push the Lakers through any kind of adversity, no matter what the squad assembled around him is. If the 2012-2013 season wasn’t warning enough, it’s easy to say that Bryant and another max superstar aren’t going to cut in. Don’t believe Bryant either when he says that he doesn’t know just how far he is from Abdul-Jabbar in terms of the scoring record (just under 7000 points), and that’s enough motivation for him to stay in the league no matter what happens around him.
The Lakers are dreaming of LeBron James, but that won’t happen. James wants NBA titles, and a team committed to winning them. It won’t happen in Los Angeles. Carmelo Anthony is the best shot they have, especially with how bad the Knicks are this season so far. The box scores will explode if Bryant and Anthony play on the same team, but it’s hard to say it’s not extremely intriguing.
The Lakers would also love Kevin Love in 2015, but going down this road with Bryant blocks that possibility. They have room for one max signing, one more mid level exception, and that’s it. As we’ve seen, loyalty to the Kobe Bryant brand might sell jerseys and keep the Lakers more popular than they should be considering their record over the last three seasons, but it isn’t getting them any championships.