Kobe Bryant: “We are overpaid, at the same time so are the owners”


Kobe Bryant is a great interview at this point because he has reached the “I don’t give a s— what people think” phase of his career, which makes for some interesting copy.

Like on Tuesday when he was asked at practice about the new TV deal and how much money is coming into the system, and with that how it impacts the next CBA.

I can guarantee you Kobe Bryant speaks here for a lot of other players. Which is why we should be nervous about the coming 2017 lockout. (Thanks to Shahan Ahmed at my old stomping grounds of NBCLA for the story, and they have the video if you want to see it.)

“Business is business and I think people get that confused very easily, the understanding that players should take less than their market value, substantially less than their market value, so the team can win championships. It’s very easy to look at the elite players around the league and talk about the money they get paid, compare that with the average (salary in America), but we don’t look at what the owners get paid, the revenue they generate off the backs of these players. And now you have a TV deal that comes out and you look at it being up like a billion dollars (a year) from the previous one, and this is coming off the back of a lockout in which the cap, it’s not a hard cap, but it’s pretty close to a hard cap.

“And now it will be interesting to see what happens in this next labor agreement. It’s my understanding this TV deal kicks in the last year of this current agreement, so I’m sure they will try to lock us out again and harden the cap even more and I think as players you got to hold your ground a little bit. Not be afraid of what the public perception is and instead try to educate the public a little bit and understanding that it’s not about complaining about how much you’re making, because that’s ridiculous — we are overpaid, at the same time so are the owners. And you have to fight for your value.

From the players’ perspective they gave the owners a lot in the 2011 lockout, at least six percentage points of the league’s revenue annually (basketball related income, the players used to get 57 percent, this last season it was 51 percent).  Then they see the Clippers sell for $2 billion (money the players do not see), and they see that new massive television deal (they do get half of that money) and they say “we’ve given plenty, it’s time for the owners to bleed a little.”

You would like to think that all that money on the table will be too much for either side to walk away from, that cooler heads will prevail in 2017. But more money often leads to more greed. Some owners are ready to still push for a hard cap and some players are ready to be out to get more concessions (they know the percentage points are gone, or at least they should know that). If the hardliners on either side control the agenda (and I think that’s more likely on the ownership side), this could get ugly.

As for Kobe talking about his oft-criticized two-year, $48 million contract, of course he’s good with it.

“I’m the luckiest basketball player in the league because I got an organization that takes care of its players.”