Earlier this month, New York Times Magazine ran an interview with USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and he suggested that the Lakers had done themselves a disservice by overpaying Kobe Bryant in the twilight of his career. Michael Wilbon was up in arms at the suggestion that it was bad for America to compensate athletes on the basis of their past performance, and now Kobe has responded in an ESPN segment.
“I thought it was pretty funny,” Bryant said in Brazil, where he’s watching the World Cup. “I thought it was pretty comical, actually. I see his perspective. But the one perspective that he’s missing from an ownership point of view is that you want to be part of an ownership group that is rewarding its players for what they’ve done, while balancing the team going forward. If you’re another player in the future and you’re looking at the Lakers organization, you want to be a part of an organization that takes care of its players while at the same time, planning for the future.”
That’s some pretty faulty logic, especially given the constraints of the NBA salary cap. Unless the Lakers want to incur exorbitant luxury tax charges, paying Kobe $48.5 million over the next two seasons obviously impacts what they can pay other players. On what planet would those other players think this is a good thing? They would want to take less money in their prime because they think Kobe deserves to be rewarded for a past of which they weren’t included? How far in the future is he talking about?
By virtue of the same salary cap and maximum contract constraints that inhibit the Lakers’ flexibility now, Kobe was probably underpaid in his prime and one cannot necessarily begrudge him for making up for it now. That being said, it’s not a terrific formula for winning, and any superstar free agent who places a premium on that will presumably shy away from the Lakers while so much of their resources are soaked up in Kobe.
Related: Jurgen Klinsmann: Bringing the United States in Line with World Soccer Media Criticism
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