Many of the early reactions to Kobe Bryant‘s two-year, $48.5MM extension suggested that the contract could cripple the Lakers’ ability to construct a contending roster around him, and questioned whether he took a significant enough pay cut. After hearing much of that criticism, Kobe shot back last night in a series of tweets and in a conversation with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, defending his deal.
“Most of us have aspirations for being businessmen when our playing careers are over,” Bryant told Wojnarowski. “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—-.”
On Twitter, Kobe pointed out that it was the “billionaire owners” who pushed hard during the 2011 lockout to create a new CBA that restricted the earning power of superstars, creating public pressure for players to be “selfless.” In Bryant’s view, he’s fortunate to play for an organization that still finds a way to take care of its stars.
“Most players in this league don’t have that,” Bryant said. “They get stuck in a predicament – probably intentionally done by the teams – to force them to take less money. Meanwhile, the value of the organization goes through the roof off the backs of their quote, unquote selfless players. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
Kobe has a point, and the fact that he remains perhaps the most marketable player in the NBA supports his argument — as many observers have noted this week, even if he’s no longer worth $24MM+ based on talent alone, his value to the Lakers organization extends far beyond his on-court play. He certainly shouldn’t be obligated to negotiate a deal worth less than what the team offered. However, it’s also fair to wonder if spending $24MM+ per year on a 36-year-old coming off an Achilles injury is the best use of the Lakers’ cap space, no matter how those cap rules came to be.