LOS ANGELES, August 14, 2013 — Kobe Bryant likes making money more than he likes winning championships. Bryant, combined with the NBA’s escalating luxury tax, is the reason that Kobe might never win another title.
Kobe Bryant can change this. He could do what other veterans hunting for titles do. Kobe could take a pay cut. He could play for less in hopes of winning more.
Antawn Jamison took a huge cut in dollars and playing time in hopes of winning a championship with the Lakers last year. That is championship desire.
As one of the best players in NBA history, it is no secret that Kobe is ruthless on the court and his desire to win is equal to none. Yet, he has never offered to restructure his contract so that the Lakers could put better talent on the floor with him.
The Lakers and Bryant have always been content with letting the franchise take the penalty tax hit while spending whatever they want on players. The current collective bargaining agreement, however, makes it increasingly harder for franchises to consistently spend over the cap.
The Lakers are feeling that sting. Instead of going after big money free agents, they are filling open roster spots with low level draft picks and players like Jordan Farmar. The Lakers cannot compete with teams like Miami while carrying Kobe’s $30.45 million contract.
From watching Michael Jordan, basketball is not the only thing Kobe learned. Michael Jordan got paid, in fact, he was the first athlete to break the $30 million threshold. Kobe’s salary ranks first in the NBA. Kobe wants to get paid and gets paid. That is one of the many things Kobe does well.
To put Jordan’s $30.14 million in perspective, he made $3.85 million the previous year. When he made $30 million in the ’96-’97 season, the salary cap was around $26 million. He even went to battle so that Scottie Pippen got paid too.
The Miami Heat were able to sign Dwayne Wade, Lebron James and Chris Bosh only because they each took less than they could have received elsewhere. Each of those players makes a little over $17 million per year.
This is Kobe’s last year under contract and he will most likely still be looking for that sixth ring. There may be quite a few big name free agents on the market this summer. Free agents that can transition the Lakers out of the Kobe Bryant era will be available. Carmelo Anthony could be a possibility for the Lakers. Lebron James may even opt out of his contract with Miami and give free agency a sniff.
Kobe, who is currently on pace to shatter the normal human recovery time after having surgery to repair his Achilles’, has hinted that this may be his last year. However, if he feels physically able to play, you can bet that he will be playing, especially if he is still in search of championship number six.
The question is not, “Will Kobe come back?” The question is, “How much will Kobe Bryant want to be paid to come back?” If he really wanted to win championships, Kobe Bryant could pull a Dennis Rodman by informing the Lakers that he wants to play for free. He would still receive the veteran’s minimum, which should be a little less than $1.5 million in the 2014-15 season.
Kobe can be an example and lead with his heart, not his wallet. Kobe has often been kicked in the media and by other players for being selfish. If he were to re-sign with the Lakers for the NBA’s version of peanuts, which is actually closer to $1.5 million than actual peanuts, he would solidify his current standing as the greatest Laker of all-time, possibly forever.
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