Kobe Bryant wants the Lakers to contend for championships.
Yes, even after he signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension that makes him the NBA’s highest-paid player, though a deal below his potential max salary.
Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:
There are a few arguments here, and while they’re related, they’re really happening on different planes.
In a vacuum, Kobe’s extension is not too large for the Lakers to build a contender around him. His salary is $39,565,000 less than the salary cap this season and $41,300,000 less than next season’s projected cap.
However, considering how many precious assets the Lakers blew to get Dwight Howard and Steve Nash – two players contributing nothing to the the team – Kobe’s salary is too high to build a contender. Behind the eight ball as a result of those trades, the Lakers need extra cap space, more than Kobe’s contract affords them.
That’s not to say Kobe should have taken a discount. He has argued against a cap on player contracts, a stance National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts echoes. Kobe might be making more now on a truly market, but he definitely would have earned more earlier in his career. He, as he always has been, is entitled to take as much money as the Lakers will give him. It’s their job, not his, to build a roster, and he shouldn’t necessarily have to shoulder the burden of them overpaying for Nash and losing Howard in free agency.
Then again, maybe the correlation between Kobe’s salary and the Lakers contending is irrelevant. He’s still a 36-year-old shoot-first player who alienates a lot of people. Perhaps his mere presence on the roster, regardless of his contract, makes it impossible for the Lakers to build a contender.