Arguably one of the greatest players of all time, Kobe Bryant is entering the last year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is currently the highest paid player in the NBA, due to make $30,453,000 this season, which is nearly $8 million more than the next highest paid player, Dirk Nowitzki.
Kobe is currently recovering from an injury which will prevent him playing the full 2013-2014 season. No-one is underestimating Bryant’s ability to return to his dominant self, but at the same time he is 35 and heading to the twilight of his career.
There has only ever been one other player who has made over $30 million in a season – Michael Jordan. With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), it seems this is where it will end. Kobe’s pay has escalated thanks to previous CBAs. He can receive a 5% pay rise on his salary this year, which would put his pay at around $32 million. I think both Kobe and the Lakers know this is unfeasible.
So what will Kobe’s next contract look like?
Kobe is focused on winning. He wants another championship. However, he also wants to get paid his worth. Even if he was to hit free agency there would be no club willing to part with $32 million a year for Kobe, let alone over 3 or 4 years. The Los Angeles team isn’t at the championship level it was a few years ago, and this may persuade Kobe to seek opportunities elsewhere. The Lakers do have approximately $50 million in cap space next season, so if there was a way to fit Kobe in and sign quality players, the team could be in contention for finals.
As suggested by Sportingnews, Kobe could take a pay of approximately $20 million per season, which would leave room for a max deal player and another player on roughly $10 million. This would add quality to the Lakers side and maintain the legacy of Kobe as a one team player.
If Kobe was to leave the Lakers his personal brand could be tarnished. He already has a significant contract with Nike, which includes his own shoe, a best seller worldwide. By switching teams, many fans may choose to opt for another brand. Not to mention jersey sales. When Jordan signed for Washington, how many people bought his new gear?
In closing, I believe a 3 year, $65 million deal will see Kobe stay at the Lakers. This still ranks him as one of the highest paid players in the NBA, putting him in the same pay range as LeBron James.