There is one man who for over a decade and a half has done the best Michael Jordan impersonation in NBA history. It’s not Lebron James. It’s Kobe Bryant. His style of play, his mannerisms, his practice habits, and his goals all mirror His Airness. He has said in the past that he wants to get ring six. Kobe wants to be in the G.O.A.T. argument. Or at least he wanted to up until this week.
By signing his new 2 year, $48.5 million extension Kobe Bryant has turned from the Black Mamba to the Green Python. Much like a python, Kobe has squeezed the Lakers organization into submission, financially speaking. The Lakers will have precious cap room this offseason. Perhaps ego has overtaken basketball knowledge: Kobe thinks he can still win a title as the number one option paired with another superstar. Has he already forgotten the Shaq Era Lakers? Role players matter when you only have 2 superstars on your roster. (Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, i.e.). Now the Lakers will have to rely on a bench of minimum salaries to have success. Veterans occasionally will take minimum contracts in order to make a title run (Shane Battier, Ray Allen) but no savvy NBA veteran believes the Lakers are building a championship team right now. Plus, Kobe Bryant in his storied career has often struggled to get along with teammates and has never been much of a recruiter. Kobe has an “old school” NBA mentality and seeks to be “the man” at all times. He is brilliant but he is also egotistical and not a huge fan of sharing. The Lakers will need help scoring the basketball, but the reality is that it isn’t going to be appealing for any offensive-minded player to sign with a team led by a 36-year-old volume scorer.
Kobe and the Lakers organization (let’s face it, ownership deserves more blame than Kobe for this desperation move) have effectively eliminated any chance they may have had to get Kobe a 6th NBA Championship. And for what, an extra $10 million? That’s a lot of money for you and I, but for Kobe that is pocket change (Over $150 million net worth). Kobe gets paid for his endorsements. But apparently money is the primary concern for the Black Mamba now. Kobe is smart enough to know that he has financially handcuffed his own franchise. Read into the contract: the 1st year Kobe makes $100k more than Amare Stoudamire and the 2nd he makes $100k more than Joe Johnson. So to Kobe Bryant this is about retaining his status as the NBA’s highest paid player, NOT about winning ring number six. The truth of the matter is that if Kobe were solely focused on winning ring six he would have mirrored his Western Conference rival Tim Duncan and signed for his market value ($10-$12 million per year).
I primarily blame Lakers ownership for offering Kobe a deal twice, some would argue greater than twice, what he will be worth the next two years. According to Bryant, there was no negotiation. 2 years, $48.5 million was apparently the Lakers’ first offer. This move shows lack of confidence in their own organization NOT their “loyalty” to Kobe Bryant. To honestly believe that this extension is a good move for the Lakers one would have to believe that A) Kobe would leave the Los Angeles Lakers and B) another team would have out-bid the Lakers for Kobe’s services. I believe, given Kobe’s history, that he would have retired before playing for another franchise.
Although ownership deserves most of the blame, Kobe deserves blame as well. If he truly wanted ring six he would have made the smart move and agreed to a deal worth less money. Kobe and his agent did a masterful job of earning Kobe money. However, they have simultaneously cemented his place in NBA history as a less-successful version of Michael Jordan. Perhaps this extension is Kobe’s way of waving the white flag on any hope he would have won a sixth NBA title. The Lakers will trot out teams for the next two years that will be moderately successful, overpaid, and eliminated from the playoffs before the NBA Finals.
And oh yeah, one more thing: Kobe has not yet returned from his Achilles injury. We don’t even know if he can still score 20 points per game in this league.