Despite the fact he was still rehabbing a tear in his Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant was awarded a two-year contract extension on November 18th. The terms of the contract are two years for approximately $48.5 million.
Bryant and the Lakers have faced a lot of backlash since the move, with fans and analysts calling Bryant selfish for taking so much money from a team that has plenty of other issues. Bryant took to his twitter page the next night to defend the extension. Bryant tweeted “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.” He also tweeted “Don’t just learn ur sport .. Learn the sports industry #futureathletes.”
There is no denying the impact that Kobe has had in the NBA and that he has earned this money. However, Bryant may need to take some of his own advice and learn the sports industry. If nothing else is true about this industry, the one fact of the industry is loyalty means nothing. With these tweets and the situation in general, a bigger question can be raised. Should teams have to pay homage to there former stars?
To start this off lets look at some of the contracts of the biggest stars in major sports. Derek Jeter, at the age of 39, just signed a one-year contract for $12 million. This comes after he signed a three-year contract for $45 million at the age of 36. Playing in a total of 17 games last year, Jeter hit .190 with 1 HR and 7 RBI. He then injured his ankle and was done for the season.
Bryant’s and Jeter’s situations are even more similar when you look at the situations of their teams. Both the Yankees and the Lakers are in a free fall. Both teams have money tied up in bad contracts and have a general lack of talent on their respective teams. Yet, Jeter and Bryant had no issue taking these large contracts that deter their teams from fixing their issues.
The argument for Jeter and Bryant making their salaries is that they need to be paid not only for what they will do, but what they have done. It is undeniable that these two are among the best of all time in their respective games. Jeter led the Yankees to 5 World Series rings & may go down as the greatest shortstop of all time. Similarly, Kobe has 5 rings and arguments (granted to a lesser extent) have been made that he is the greatest basketball player of all time.
The question ultimately comes down to this. Do teams have pay their long tenured players more because of their past actions. The answer to this question varies. Look at Jim Irsay. He only had to pay Peyton Manning what his contract already was. Instead he released Manning and selected Andrew Luck with the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. This move was praised by some and criticized by other. However, there was one universal agreement, there is no loyalty in sports.
This example can go even further. When Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, he was bombarded with criticism for having a lack of loyalty to his players. Yet, the deal was better for the team, as a whole, in the long term as they brought in expiring contracts and future draft picks to build their team with.
The one option not many people mention is why don’t these players just take less money. That’s the situation of future Hall of Fame PF Dirk Nowitzki. Reports have surfaced that Nowitzki will want to slash his salary by more than half next season so that his team, the Dallas Mavericks, can continue to rebuild. This is an admirable situation, which, unfortunately, does not happen as often as it should in the professional sports.
So is it wrong to trade Pierce or release Manning? At the end of the day, an owner, general manager, and coach need to decide whom they have to be loyal to. Do you have to be loyal to a specific player or an entire team? Last time I checked, there are 52 players on an NFL team and 24 on and MLB team. So why must you be loyal to the minority? Yes this is a utilitarian type of thinking, but it isn’t as far fetched, as it may seem. Must there be more loyalty to Kobe Bryant then an entire team and that teams fan base? That is the ultimate question.