It’s fairly commonplace for an NBA star in today’s era to take a contract worth less than their market value in order to give their team the necessary funds to build a championship contender around them.
Perhaps nobody embodies that idea more than Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, who signed a three-year $25 million contract this past offseason, making him the fourth highest player on his own team.
But theres at least one vocal player that doesn’t believe in such a strategy: Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
Last year, Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5 million deal with the Lakers. NBA fans everywhere crushed him for taking such a deal, believing it would prevent the Lakers from contending during its years.
Kobe elaborated on his beliefs about taking discounts Friday to ESPN:
“It’s the popular thing to do,” Bryant said after the Los Angeles Lakers‘ shootaround prior to Friday night’s 140-106 loss to Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks. “The player takes less, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think it’s a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money. Because if you don’t, then you get criticized for it.
“It’s absolutely brilliant, but I’m not going for it. I know the new head of the players’ association ain’t going for it, either.”
In my mind, it’s hard to blame Kobe for refusing to take less than he could get. As he hints at, league owners are printing cash off the players’ hard work, yet we expect the players to be the ones that should sacrifice dollars.
Bryant wanted to be paid what he believed to be a fair amount and isn’t that what we all want?
At the same time, in a league where there’s a salary cap, Kobe’s deal hurt the Lakers’ ability to build a strong team.
Just compare Dirk’s Mavs to Kobe’s Lakers. Dallas, who just destroyed Los Angeles 140-106 Friday, are 10-3 and poised to be a solid playoff team.
The Lakers, on the other hand, are 3-10 and poised to be one of the worst team’s in the league.
There’s a connection there with the contracts Kobe and Dirk took and how their respective teams are performing.
So, while I give all power to Kobe for getting the contract he wanted, he also made a non-winning decision.
Today, it appears he’s fine with the decision he made. And I get why. But it’ll be interesting to see, long after his basketball career is over, if he feels the same way.