Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant agreed to a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension on Monday, a deal which will make him the highest paid player in the NBA over those two years. While the extension did represent a pay cut from the $30.45 million Bryant is making this year, committing nearly $50 million to a 35-year-old coming off an Achilles tear may not be considered the smartest allocation of funds.
Critics of the new contract came out in full force, both against the Lakers for making that commitment and Bryant himself for not taking less and giving the team more flexibility to improve. Bryant took notice of the criticism, lashing out at the people who ripped him for not accepting a smaller deal, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
"Most of us have aspirations for being businessmen when our playing careers are over," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports in a corridor of the Verizon Center. "But that starts now. You have to be able to wear both hats. You can't sit up there and say, 'Well, I'm going to take substantially less because there's public pressure, because all of a sudden, if you don't take less, you don't give a crap about winning. That's total bull----."
While Bryant is upset with the people who are upset with him, he also does understand why the sentiment is out there. In short, Bryant is not a fan of the new CBA that has devalued the NBA superstar in general:
"I'm very fortunate to be with an organization that understands how to take care of its players, and put a great team out on the floor. They've figured out how to do both.
"Most players in this league don't have that. They get stuck in a predicament -- probably intentionally done by the teams -- to force them to take less money. Meanwhile, the value of the organization goes through the roof off the backs of their quote, unquote selfless players.
"It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
Bryant again reiterated there was very little negotiation done to reach an agreement, with the Lakers basically making an offer after one meeting. Taking this into account, it's certainly hard to blame Bryant for taking the money considering the situation he's in.
In addition to speaking out to reporters, Bryant also took to social media to air his frustrations:
The cap rules players have to be "selfless" on To "help" BILLIONAIRE owners R the same cap rules the owners LOCKED US out to put in #think— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) November 27, 2013
Don't just learn ur sport .. Learn the sports industry #futureathletes— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) November 27, 2013
The Lakers do have the ability to carve out max cap space next summer, although there will have to be some maneuvering. Pau Gasol will either be gone or be forced to take a huge pay cut if he wants to stay in Los Angeles, while Steve Nash's $9.7 million will likely be stretched over three years. A good portion of the rest of the roster will be free agents, so the Lakers will have to make decisions on who they want to keep and at what price. Ultimately, the goal will be to have that max space to offer a big name free agent.
Even if the Lakers aren't able to attract a marquee free agent, Bryant himself remains a cash cow for the franchise. So while the team could remain mediocre with their aging superstar, people will still flock to see him. And as SB Nation's Tom Ziller notes, a mediocre Lakers team with Bryant is a much better proposition for management than a mediocre Lakers team without him, which is what the team very likely could have been if he was allowed to walk.