When the Los Angeles Lakers decided to sign Kobe Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million dollar contract extension last November, many couldn’t help but raise an eye. Things only got worse though when Bryant decided to flex what he believes is an understanding of the NBA salary cap, suggesting that the Lakers still had plenty of room to build a roster around him.
Not a ton of people believed that, including U.S. World Cup coach Jurgen Klinsmann who referenced Bryant’s albatross of a contract during an interview with The New York Times Magazine, using it to defend his decision to cut longtime national team player Landon Donovan.
Here is what Klinsmann had to say:
This always happens in America. Kobe Bryant, for example — why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?
That obviously didn’t sit well with Bryant who gave the following response:
I thought it was pretty funny. I thought it was pretty comical actually. I see his perspective. But the one perspective that he’s missing from an ownership point of view is that you want to be part of an ownership group that is rewarding its players for what they’ve done while balancing the team going forward. If you’re another player in the future and you’re looking at the Lakers organization, you want to be a part of an organization that takes care of its players while at the same time planning for the future. Jurgen is a coach, a manager. He’s not a GM or owner of the franchise. When you look at it from that perspective, it changes a little bit. But you probably could have used another player as an example.
In fairness, they both do seem to have a point. Professional sports organizations do often pay elite players for what they’ve done in comparison to what they’re expected to do. No, that’s not always the case but more often than not you’re paid on what you’ve done.
Of course, on the flip side Klinsmann has a job to put the best product on the field that he can and if a player, great as they once were, isn’t doing the job then understandably they have to be put on the chopping block.