United State’s Men’s National Soccer Coach Jurgen Klinsmann had a lot of questions to answer after he left Landon Donovan off the the World Cup team (at least he did before the win over Ghana). To explain it he took a shot at Kobe Bryant’s new contract with the Lakers:
“This always happens in America. Kobe Bryant, for example — why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?”
Kobe, a huge soccer fan, is down in Brazil for the World Cup and to cheer on Team USA. He sat down with ESPN while there and was asked about Klinsmann’s comments (hat tip Mark Medina at the Daily News):
“I thought it was pretty funny. 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. Jurgen is a coach, a manager. He’s not a GM or owner of the franchise. When you look at it from that perspective, it changes a little bit. But you probably could have used another player as an example.”
Kobe is right, he and Klinsmann do come at this from different perspectives. More than that, they are participating in very different systems — you can make the long play in running an NBA team in a way you cannot in picking a World Cup team.
Klinsmann is putting together and coaching a team for a once every four-year event, he needs his best players right now, and in choosing them he should be merciless. He needs his best team ready and peaking at World Cup, in that kind of setting you do not just bring a guy along as a reward for past performance.
For Kobe and the Lakers, it is about building an organiation that can complete over time and if you reward a player like Kobe free agents (and their agents) notice and think “if my guy is there and performs they will reward him, too.” You can make the long play. Not to mention it’s a business, and while the Lakers try to rebuild the roster Kobe will be what is sold to fans — and he will fill the luxury boxes and expensive courtside seats, the sponsors will still flock to the team.
That said, I still think the Lakers overpaid Kobe. It will lessen their flexibility to make roster moves the next couple years.