What is a superstar truly worth and how can they be valued? Is it by stats, championships, star power, marketability or reputation?
Kobe Bryant’s recent two year $48.5 million dollar extension this week has been met with relentless criticism by many around the NBA, with much of the dissent citing his age and the Lakers’ current situation in building a new team.
From first impressions the mammoth amount of the extension would make anybody think that Kobe was being greedy and held the Lakers for ransom which is a fair assumption, but the facts explained show a different conclusion.
There is no doubt that Kobe sells tickets, he has been the game’s biggest name for over fifteen years and is the cornerstone of the franchise which is something they realise and more importantly, appreciate.
This contract extension shows the complete respect the Lakers have for his contributions to their brand. Not only the rings and wins but also the dollars that he brings through the turnstiles and their stores.
Most superstar players who have reached this point of their career usually re-evaluate their priorities and chase glory over the pay check. Current players like Tim Duncan and Steve Nash showed their desire for a championship which lead them to taking large pay cuts.
Though as great as these players are, Kobe Bryant is a different breed, this is a guy who in my opinion is one of the five greatest players of all time and is the best player since Michael Jordan.
So what now for the Lakers, first and foremost they needed to move on from the Dwight Howard fiasco and their plans of building their team around the former Orlando Magic big man.
A team like the Lakers need and deserve a superstar and once again they have left the responsibility on Bryant to assist in ushering in their new phase.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who has proven his worth of building championship teams, anticipated that by securing Kobe, he would be able to attain at least one major star and a few more ‘second-tier’ stars such as Luol Deng, Kyle Lowry or Gordon Hayward all of whom would definitely contribute for a run at a championship.
He stated after the contract signing: “To play 20 years in the NBA, and to do so with the same team, is unprecedented, and quite an accomplishment. Most importantly, however, it assures us that one of the best players in the world will remain a Laker, bringing us excellent play and excitement for years to come”.
A statement which represents all aspects of this contract extension. Moreover, the Lakers simply could not afford to let Kobe test the free agent waters as he would not have a lack of options, they needed to please the fans who love him and appreciate what he has done for the game through his career.
They simply could not afford to make a ‘scene’ of the situation for they as an organisation realise that Kobe is worth much more than what he is getting paid. They also needed to continue their principles that their late owner Dr Jerry Buss built his legacy upon and that is loyalty and family.
Some might argue that Kobe in anticipation of the arrivals of some superstars is simply ‘striking while the iron is hot’, knowing that by signing early he would get the bulk of the free cash and would not need to step in and take any pay cuts if the Lakers so choose to bring in two other stars.
He is aware that the Lakers would be the preferred team for these superstar players as they are the benchmark of the league in regards to team prestige, but in the end he has earned the right to do that.
To put simply the Lakers were in a position to pay Kobe Bryant enough money as well as challenge for a ring. The Laker organisation realise and understands the magnitude of what a championship would provide their balance sheet and evidently they think that Kobe is worth the investment.
"We have the ability to do something special,” Bryant said. “The Lakers are a stand-up organization, and they stepped up to the plate. It makes me want to run through a wall for them.
“It kind of adds more fuel to the fire to be able to prove to everybody that they’ve got it right — and everybody else is wrong”. Kobe is just a product of a great and loyal organisation, in the end they mean as much to him as he does to them and this deal is nothing but fair and expected from both parties.
Just like he has countless times before Kobe Bryant’s desire and competitiveness will shine through and you will see nothing but 100% from the eighteen year veteran.
He will be at his best and will strive harder than ever to prove to the critics and more importantly to the Lakers that he was worth the investment and not many people would argue that Kobe Bryant even at the age of 35 on his day is the best player in the NBA.
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