A lot has been said about Kobe Bryant re-signing with the Lakers for 2 years and $48 million, most of it not very positive. The Lakers have been criticized for spending so much on a 35 year old perimeter player coming off an Achilles injury, and for using so much salary cap space when they should be focusing on landing some younger big money players like Carmelo Anthony or even Lebron should he be interested in 2014. And Kobe has criticized for not taking less money so that: (a) the Lakers can get some more players or (b) he can join another contender that would be closer to a ring so he can get ring number six a lot easier. Both views are nonsense. I’ll get to Kobe in just a minute, but first let’s looks at the Lakers. They made the right move and anybody who says differently in a moron. In today’s world of advanced metrics like PER, win shares, and true shooting percentage it’s easy to look at players like Kobe and decide that they’re not worth it. That you should go with a collection of highly efficient players who do specific things extremely well and don’t cost a lot of money. That’s garbage. You win in the NBA with stars and supporting players who fit well with your stars. Period.
The poster child for the new way of building an NBA team has been the Houston Rockets. Their GM Daryl Morey has been hailed as a genius of sorts for assembling teams full of good players that each did certain things very well and played with a high efficiency rate, without breaking the bank for someone they would immediately regret paying like Rashard Lewis or Erick Dampier. It’s a nice little story, except for the fact that it hasn’t paid off well. In the years they were anchored by Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, two stars who put up numbers and made All-Star teams, they won between 51 and 55 games with a one year dip to 34 wins when both players missed a lot of games in the same year. They made the playoffs four out of the five years. In the three years after when they took the we-don’t-need-no-stinking-max-players approach they won 43, 42, and 34 (out of 66) games, and missed the playoffs each year. Last season they added a max-caliber talent in James Harden and went up to 45 wins. They added another in Dwight Howard this summer and are on pace for 50-wins again this season. You won’t find a single team in the last 50 years who won a title without at least one player whose talent warranted a max contract (don’t tell me about Detroit in 2004; Rasheed Wallace had MVP level ability and just didn’t play up to it every night). The Lakers may bomb out with Kobe over the next few years but they stand a better chance trying to win by riding with him than trying a more economic approach.
Now as for Kobe? He did exactly what he should have done. Take the money. Professional sports are a job and a business to the play who participate in them. Period. They are in the entertainment business, and unlike other entertainers their careers end, full stop, at an early age. Kobe is 35 and very likely signed his last NBA contract. If that ends up being true he will retire at38 years old. 38. Mick Jagger went on tour this year at the ripe old age of 70. I saw two movies this year, Last Vegas and Red 2, that starred actors and actresses closer to Jagger’s age than Kobe’s. Kobe, and every other pro athlete, will not be able to get together with a team of his or her peers when they’re pushing 70 and compete professionally. If you’re lucky you can play until you’re 40. And then it’s over. And when it’s over, it’s over. You go from getting paid millions to play to scraping around for a few hundred thousand a year in a television job. What’s the difference between getting paid $24 million a year and getting say, $16 million a year? EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS. You turning that down? I didn’t think so. He’s already got five championship rings; are you honestly going to think more of him if he gets another one? No, you’re not. However you feel about Kobe as a basketball player today is the way you’re going to feel about him from here on out.
And there’s no guarantee that the Lakers would surround with championship talent if he did take less money. Tom Brady consistently takes less money from the Patriots, and they continue to supply him with subpar wide receivers while letting big money guys like Richard Seymour and Wes Welker leave town. Unless Lebron has already agreed under the table to join him out there in 2014, for all we know Kobe will be out with the same roster the Lakers are currently sending out there now. Kobe did the right thing and got the money Don’t let these fools convince you of anything different. Let me know when the owners take less money and maybe we can talk.