Posted November 27, 2013

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant passionately defends his new contract extension

Ben Golliver, Jim Buss, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Mitch Kupchak
(Christian Petersen/ Getty Images Sport)

Kobe Bryant averaged 27.3 points and 6 assists last season. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport)

One day after agreeing to a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension that will maintain his status as the league’s highest-paid player, Kobe Bryant took to Twitter Tuesday to defend himself, the Lakers and the agreement.

In a series of messages, the 15-time All-Star pushed back against various criticisms of the contract from fans and media members. Those criticisms included: that Bryant should have sacrificed more to help the Lakers build a better roster, that the size of his contract would drastically alter L.A.’s cap flexibility next summer, and that Lakers management shouldn’t have given out such a large deal before Bryant returned from a season-ending Achilles injury.

“The cap rules players have to be ‘selfless’ on to ‘help’ BILLIONAIRE owners [are] the same cap rules the owners LOCKED US out to put in,” Bryant wrote. “#Think.”

He continued: “Don’t just learn [your] sport. Learn the sports industry #futureathletes … [By the way], Lakers have max cap space and then some.”

Bryant concluded by referring to GM Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family ownership group as “sharp.”

Those messages were in line with statements made during a press conference Tuesday which were reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“It makes me want to run through a wall for them,” he said Tuesday. “Kind of just adds more fuel to the fire. Prove to everybody that [the Lakers] are right and everybody else is wrong.”

Bryant thought the Lakers could “absolutely” still put together a championship team despite his extension.

“I think the fans are, God bless them, they’re fans and they have good intentions and have a good spirit about it, but I don’t think they understand the cap. … I think we’ll be all right,” he said.

Then, Bryant went even further in an interview with Yahoo! Sports.

“Most of us have aspirations for being businessmen when our playing careers are over,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports in a corridor of the Verizon Center. “But that starts now. You have to be able to wear both hats. You can’t sit up there and say, ‘Well, I’m going to take substantially less because there’s public pressure, because all of a sudden, if you don’t take less, you don’t give a crap about winning. That’s total bull—-.”

Meanwhile, Lakers VP Jim Buss defended the deal in comments to ESPNLA.com.

“We made him the highest-paid player in the NBA because we felt like it was the right thing to do. This wasn’t about what somebody else would pay him or outbidding anyone for him. This was to continue his legacy [with the Lakers], our legacy of loyalty to our iconic players.”

“He doesn’t have to prove to us one thing,” Buss said. “He’s proven everything to us over the last 17 years. We’ve seen what he’s done with broken fingers and torn ligaments. There’s no stopping the guy. We have 100 percent faith in him.”

There’s a lot going on here, so let’s unpack this point by point.

Part of being a “Laker for life” is proving that loyalty by standing up for the organization when it takes criticism. In this case, Bryant should be commended for backing his bosses. It’s not always clear whether Bryant is the face of the Lakers or whether the Lakers are merely the body attached to him, but he has everything to gain and nothing to lose by throwing his considerable influence behind the organization’s move, even if The Point Forward concluded that Bryant clearly won the negotiation. In fact, a good negotiator always makes sure everyone is happy when a deal has been consummated, and Bryant succeeded on that count to be sure. To show such dedication could only be seen as a positive from the Lakers’ perspective.

His point about the salary cap system — which essentially boils down to “don’t hate the player, hate the game” — is also well-taken, even if he was reportedly one of the loudest voices urging the players to settle for their current deal rather than pressing on for more favorable terms. Yes, Bryant has surely earned the Lakers far more than they’ve been legally allowed to pay him over the years. Yes, he would have commanded far more in salary if there were no salary cap or limit on maximum contracts. Yes, being the “highest-salaried player” is peanuts compared to the Lakers, who have been valued at more than $1 billion. Bryant shouldn’t be faulted for the size of his contract, or the rules governing L.A.’s next moves, and he is correct to push back against the personal attacks against his character.

Agreeing to a deal that will push his career earnings well over $300 million does not make him “greedy” or “selfish” or anything else in that vein. His lifetime of achievement and immense global popularity helped set that threshold, and his positive relationship with his employers played a role in reducing the back-and-forth tension that might have popped up in a longer, tougher negotiation. Any blame for the size of a contract falls on the Lakers for two reasons: they cut the checks, and they call the roster-building shots. L.A. could have waited to make this deal and they didn’t. L.A. could have tried to approach Bryant by selling him hard on an alternate plan (taking a heavily-subsidized salary to help facilitate the arrival of top-shelf free-agent sidekicks next summer, for example) and they didn’t. Bryant bears no responsibility for the Lakers’ approach.

From there, though, Bryant walks out on shakier ice.

As noted by The Point Forward on Monday, the Lakers will find it extremely difficult to construct a roster capable of championship contention with Bryant’s salary eating up such a large portion of their cap. Bryant can be forgiven if his mind fixates first on the 2009 and 2010 championship teams, but by July there will almost certainly have been four straight years worth of Lakers teams that bowed out in the second round of the playoffs or earlier. Bryant doesn’t need to publicly acknowledge these facts, especially right now, but he also can’t expect people to treat his comments about the max cap space and the championship contention talk as anything more than fairly empty talking points.

Finally, the comments about the fans not understanding the salary cap are unusually tone-deaf for such a media-savvy and experienced superstar. Die-hard fans understand their team’s cap situation inside and out these days — and have for years now — and even casual fans can understand how large contracts have put teams like the Knicks and Nets behind the eight ball this season. Lakers fans, in particular, have watched as their team used every trick in the book to build a team around Bryant over the last few years despite heavy luxury taxes, to no avail. Those same Lakers fans see the Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, Spurs and Clippers, five Western Conference teams that have star talent, depth and fairly clean salary situations, and they rightfully wonder whether the Lakers are simply stuck on the outside looking in. Bryant’s approach — which amounts to asking for blind trust — is hard for people to swallow with L.A. sitting in 12th in the standings after barely sneaking into the 2013 playoffs and failing to re-sign Dwight Howard last summer.

We’re left in a situation where Bryant trusts himself fully to lead a championship-quality team and many outsiders have reasonable doubts. That gulf can only be crossed with legitimate action and a large number of Lakers wins. It’s good to hear Bryant’s stance, but it seems unlikely that it will change very many minds.

56 comments
Goldy2k2
Goldy2k2

The Lakers overpaid for a fading legend with a bum foot. With all that to consider you would think that he would've left some cap room to acquire better talent to help him. Kobe's ego is the reason Shaq got traded, Dwight Howard left, and a list of other bad Laker fortune. Too bad his ego will eventually be the reason he does not get to 6. "Not Like MIke"

bambam824
bambam824

Kobe, the only "fans" complaining about your new contract are NOT thinking in the best interest of the Lakers organization, and besides, you DID take a pay cut. Congratulations on your accomplishments and good luck towards your 6th Bling!

NEsports27
NEsports27

Why shouldn't Kobe get paid?  He's one of the greatest players of all time.  Much respect from a lifelong Celtics fan.

began2000
began2000

For those of you saying that Kobe is taking money over winning a championship.  Know this, Kobe is confident enough to think that he can have the money and win a championship with Gasol, and I agree (but only if he can recover from his injury and Mike D'antoni gets hit by a bus).  I don't remember Jordan ever taking less money to lure all-stars to the Bulls or to pay Pippen what he was worth.  Just a few years ago everyone was upset with the big 3 in Miami for taking less pay to play together.  Remember?  Everyone said Lebron, D-wade, and "what's his name"  lacked the strong inner belief that they could win a championship on their own and conceded that they needed help.  Kobe is old school and I admire his confidence, willpower, and belief in himself. 

icanhasfarikal
icanhasfarikal

The issue is not about whether he is worth $24M a year. He is. He is worth that for his services, revenue generated to the club or his past achievements for the Lakers.

The issue is whether $24M leaves the roster bare for contending. The discussions should stick to that.

BlowPop852
BlowPop852

Kobe the ball hog is dead weight. He is a noose around the LA fans neck. Glad to see your team CHOKE and the owners on their knees in front of the biggest FAILURE in the history of basketball. He makes players around him WORSE and shoots for a terrible average pumping up shots he shouldnt take. Shaq won those championships and Kobe isnt worth 10 cents. 

SaskDLO
SaskDLO

It is a big contract, but there's only a hand full of players who are worth that money and kobe is definitely one of them!  And in reality HE DID TAKE LESS MONEY!  hes making 30M this year!  New deal is leaving 6M on the table.

psychsports
psychsports

Ok--Among other things, Bryant is a 15-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team.  As of March 2013, he ranks third and fourth  on the league's all-time postseason scoring and all-time regular season scoring lists, respectively.  He has also been a part of give NBA Championship teams—if you want to look at this as an after-thought.

Here is my take--http://psychologyofsports.com/2013/11/28/kobe-bryant-got-exactly-what-he-was-worth/

bambam824
bambam824

Kobe doesn't need to "justify" his contract. He brought 5 Championships to the Lakers and the Lakers had NO problem writing the contract. What else do you pay a player who can contribute 27 points 5 assiasts and 5 boards? The Lakers are a 3 billion dollar organization, you think they can't afford it?

eddie767
eddie767

If you have to justify your pay,you know it's out of wack. Anyway it's the Lakers who have to explain not Kobe. They offered he took.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

When I got a raise from $1.25 to $1.60 an hour I defended the decision too. I flipped those burgers as well as anyone else in the restaurant!

Points for who can figure out what year that was. 

Tony38
Tony38

And what superstar is going to want to go to LA to play valet to an aging and increasingly average player who hogs the ball? It's one thing to reward Kobe financially for his past performance. It's stupid for them to build a team based on his past performance. 

Tony38
Tony38

that's $5 mil a year for the rest of his freaking life.

Tony38
Tony38

Lakers are stupid. Kobe, take all the money you want. Just don't pretend you're dedicated to winning another title. If the Lakers really wanted to reward Kobe for all his years of service, why couldn't they pay him $10 mill a year, then sign him to personal services contract with the Lakers after he retires, for like $5 million for the rest of his freaking life?

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

Kobe Bryant proved beyond doubt he is now about the money.

That 6th ring?  Not a chance.  And that's like news from the mountain top for those of us who loathe this team and that town.

This deal sets the Lakers back at least four years.  Somewhere tonight Jerry West is chuckling….

Thanks so much, lil'Buss.  You are not your daddy.

TheBigSixx
TheBigSixx

Hey Kobe, the hell with them. You don't have to explain why someone wants to pay you $48.5 million. The CEO's of these mega corporations don't explain to anyone why they take all the money they get and let people go without warning. So take all you can get b/c that's what most of us would do if we had the opportunity.

T.Christian
T.Christian

Does this mean Kevin Love is safe and the Wolves can keep him? My understanding was he was already wearing a Lakers jersey under his MN one.

BryanCauthon
BryanCauthon

Wow, if there was ever an action by Kobe that proved his lack of basketball knowledge and his own overrated opinion of his abilities it is this contract. Hate the lakers and love this contract. No way will the lakers have the money to sign enough good players to be competitive. He will never pick up another ring in a Laker uniform. Now for my early Christmas present-please, please Knicks need to send Carmelo to the lakers. That would be epic. Carmelo and Kobe would have fistfights on the offensive end of the court at least 3X a game.

Bearsclone
Bearsclone

Kobe trying to turn this into a discussion about "helping out billionaire owners" which is not what it's about at all.  No one feels sorry for he Lakers because they're paying the luxury tax.  God knows they can afford it.

It's just a stupid move in terms of winning basketball games, because for the first time in his career, Kobe is being grossly over paid, and that affects the ability of the team to sign other players who can help the team (and Kobe) to win championships.

If Kobe wants the money and the Lakers will give him the money he'd be stupid not to take it, but he just can't pretend at this point of his career that he's trying to win championships, because at that price, no team he's on will win anything that matters.

TOperspective
TOperspective

Kobe is delusional or mistaken. It's clear that he's not about the championships.  Right now he's all about the scoring title.  Kobe doesn't care about anything but Kobe. 

PatrickBatemanVP
PatrickBatemanVP

This is another case of an athlete that isn't the best player in his sport getting paid like he is.

Capeniceguy
Capeniceguy

The rich just keep getting "RICHER" !!!!  Unfortunately it's likely that a few years after he retires we'll likely be reading about how the poor fella is "BANKRUPTED" because of bad business investments or because some of his so called advisors,  business partners, or investment people, yadda, yadda, yadda, stole from him

malgus
malgus

Suppose Kobe and one max guy and Nash are the only Lakers.  This would just about fill up the entire salary cap.

Once over they are over cap, the other 13 guys filling out the roster will be restricted to minimum salary guys.   If a decent role player wants to join the Lakers HE is the one that will have to sacrifice salary to do so, not Kobe.   Way to look out Kobe!

pval
pval

 24 mil a year seriously ? A business decision really ? Fair enough, let's talk about business :

 Bryant has a good point when he refers to the cap limit set out in the CBA as a benefit for the owners, however the fact remains that it IS the context in which he has to play for the rest of his career, take or leave it. 

First rule of business : you operate in a certain set of market conditions : deal with it !

He framed the question as " how much can I SELL my services ?". That's not thinking in terms of business,  this is  Average Joe's thinking !  The guys who need to make end meet next month , nest year,  and hence in a relative position of weakness. 

Does he REALLY need the money ? Of course not ! ( or at least I truly hope so !).

 He was, in fact, a position of strength, and the real BUSINESS question he should have asked himself  in this position was "how much am I ready to PAY for a better chance at another ring?".

He was in this very rare situation : he could have used financial leverage to "buy" something that is never actually  for sale... 

He thought he was the SELLER while in fact he was the BUYER !! Talk about misreading a business deal !!

Or does he think that if gets less money than he "deserves" people will think he's been had ? If so, what a shocking lack of self confidence ! 

 C'mon ! Tim Duncan gets paid 10mil a year !  Anyone thinks that's the money he actually  "deserves" ? Of course not !  Anyone thinks he is getting screwed by his franchise ? Of course not ! 

He knows EXACTLY what he is doing (and everybody else in the NBA for matter). And last time I checked, Duncan came within seconds to get his fifth ring ! 

And, ho ! Duncan has a much better shot at it than Bryant this year too ...

Even in a strict business sense, one or two rings so late in Bryant's career would set him apart from the rest as a "sport brand" for the rest of his life : right up there with "brand Jordan"  and a step ahead of "brand LeBron" (as long as LBJ doesn't get at least two or three more rings).

Bryant  wants to be a "businessman" ? If  so,  I'm not impressed so far : he just passed on a business opportunity, one he will never get to have again in his entire life..... 

Really Kobe, would, say, 18mil a year have killed you ?

seniorlaker
seniorlaker

Kobe Bryant is the only player that has played for the fans, organization and God.  His dedication has been more valuable to fans that remember what makes a great and memorable player.  When you really look at the players of the future, what player plays so hard and dedicated that they play injured or paining?  Kobe Byrant has done that in his career.  Now that he is nearing the end, GIVE HIM HIS PRAISE NOT MESS.  GOD SEES ALL.

Blinker
Blinker

Loving it!!!!!!!!  Lakers going DOWN HILL FAST!!!!!!!

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Kobe said "Hey 24 million is not that much, it only buys a brotha 4 rape rings".

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Bryant is going to be a huge defensive liability and a ball hog that nobody will want to play with.

bambam824
bambam824

What else do you play a player who has shown he can deliever 27 points, 5 boards and 5 dimes, and Kobe has even stated the Lakers will still have mega cap space available. Other teams would pay even MORE for a player like that.

Damon3
Damon3

@BlowPop852 You're an idiot! It's not even worth wasting time getting into a debate with you over Kobe's accomplishments. 

mannythegoat
mannythegoat

@DavidHarte  Why do you let your bosses pay you as much as you do? I bet if you took a pay cut it would help them out too. So selfish, David.

JulesG
JulesG

And why shouldn't he be about the money? I am lost here.... And I seriously doubt this deal sets the Lakers back, but what else would you expect from people...to see the extreme negative.

JulesG
JulesG

@TOperspective **sigh** This sentiment has been beaten into the ground. I guess players are only supposed to care about one thing, and that is winning a title. Otherwise, why are they playing for, right? Just like, when you go to work, the only thing you care about is making your company richer, right? Not anything to do with you as an individual....correct?

BryanCauthon
BryanCauthon

God missed that incident in Colorado a few years back.

Voiceover310
Voiceover310

@Blinker Since the NBA/ABA merger (38 years ago) the Lakers have only missed the playoffs twice. Lakers organization always finds a way to win. It's been proven time & time again

Spiro B
Spiro B

@Blinker The Lakers will always be relevant.  Championships always come back to LA.  They just let other teams taste the champagne once in a while.

TheBigSixx
TheBigSixx

@SukeMadiq I haven't heard any of his teammates saying they don't want to play with him. The only one I heard say that was Shack and he didn't want to work out, so he got fat and left.

Goldy2k2
Goldy2k2

@JulesG @TOperspective Kobe is the one who has "proclaimed" that he's all about winning a 6th ring. I remember when he wanted to be traded because he wanted the Lakers to get him "help" or else. Well they got him that help and then won back to back championships. So what's different now? I understand we all wanna get that paper, but don't talk about being dedicated to winning a 6th ring, but not willing to sacrifice or do "whatever" it takes to do get it. That's what I call a hypocrite. 

hamsandwich
hamsandwich

@Spiro B @SukeMadiq Maybe so, but he's probably right... Gone are the days when a younger Kobe could take over games at either end of the floor.