Kobe Bryant is going to finish his career a Los Angeles Laker — 20 seasons with the same team. That would be the longest single-team tenure in NBA history.
Monday morning the Lakers announced that Bryant — who has yet to play this season as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon — has signed a two-year extension with the team.
“This is a very happy day for Lakers fans and for the Lakers organization,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said in a released statement. “We’ve said all along that our priority and hope was to have Kobe finish his career as a Laker, and this should ensure that that happens. To play 20 years in the NBA, and to do so with the same team, is unprecedented, and quite an accomplishment. Most importantly however, it assures us that one of the best players in the world will remain a Laker, bringing us excellent play and excitement for years to come.”
This does not come cheaply. At all.
Understand Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett became free agents then took salary cuts into the $10 million range.
For the Lakers this is the smart business move — Kobe Bryant the player is what fills the seats and the luxury boxes, what gets sponsors on board, what drives the team’s financial engine. Even at $48.5 million for two seasons, he’s a bargain.
But that salary is going to cut pretty deeply into who the Lakers will be able to bring in and put around Kobe Bryant. With Bryant’s new salary plus the stuff on the books (Steve Nash, for one) they should have about $22 million, enough to bring in a max free agent (if they can attract one). It’s not simple. The need to deal with Pau Gasol and his contract this summer (he is a cap hold of $20 million until he signs with the Lakers or another team) and some of the other pieces to create that space. Unless they can bring Gasol back.
Whoever they bring in, for two more seasons in Los Angeles this is Kobe Bryant’s team.