I've written before that I think the contract that the Los Angeles Lakers gave to Kobe Bryant was a good decision by the team. It's clearly not a good basketball decision, but to me it's equally clearly a good business decision. Neither the Lakers ticket sales nor their National TV appearances are going to suffer during Kobe's farewell tour slash record chase.
Having said that, Kobe's recent comments contrasting his own contract to that of Dirk Nowitzki were beyond stupid. Which I found surprising. As much as I dislike the Kobester for many reasons, he's generally been self aware as NBA stars go. He's an asshole, but he's usually "gets" it.
But when asked his opinion of his new $23.5M contract as compared to Dirk's $8M per season deal, Bryant really should have deferred. The most he could say would be that different people are free to make different decisions. Kobe chose instead to imply that the so-called "home-town discount" is a boon to NBA owners, implying somehow that Dirk was being disloyal to his fellow players and/or naive to sign for less money than he could have demanded.
Kobe's comments are so wrong-headed for so many reasons. Is Kobe unaware of the NBA's salary cap? Does he think that Mark Cuban's approach to NBA team ownership is to minimize expense and maximize profits? The Mavericks overall payroll this season is $70M, compared to $77M for the Lakers -- which is a lot less than the $15M+ difference in the star contracts. Cuban took the money he saved on Dirk's deal and spent it elsewhere, specifically on Chandler Parsons. The Lakers only had enough money left over after Kobe's deal to shop in the NBA's bargain bin.
It's arguably a tad unfair to Kobe to look only at the team records -- but then again, isn't that the bottom line? The Mavs are 11-5 after a month this season; the Lakers are 3-12. And while the Lakers started with less, much of that can be laid directly at Kobe's feet. Look at it this way: Dirk is 65 days older than Kobe; the Mavs won their title in 2011, the Lakers last won it all the season before. The fact that the Mavs are still winning being led in scoring by a 36 year old Nowitzki while the Lakers are the worst team in the west with a 36 year old leading the entire league is not without relevance in this discussion.
The best irony here is that Kobe's usual go to argument is the oh so sophisticated "ringzzzz". Why is the guy who has always said that the ultimate measure of his success is the number of championships he's won suddenly so concerned with maximizing his own earning potential at the expense of team success?
Kobe was in a no-win situation when he faced a question about his overblown contract. Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki -- any number of aging stars have taken less money in order to give their team the financial flexibility to sign better players in the salary cap era. Kobe chose instead to retain his title as "Highest Paid Player in the NBA." That's fine; that's his prerogative. But please own it for what it is, an ego-driven decision. Don't pretend that you're striking a blow for players rights against the oppressive owners or that those who sign for less are being irresponsible.
Make up your mind Kobe. Is it about winning, or is it about getting yours? Either one is fine with me, but it can't be both.