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Kobe Bryant says elite players like LeBron, himself are underpaid. He’s right.

Aug 23, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

Kobe Bryant Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant is right.

But it’s also an argument that’s hard to win.

I’ve heard estimates from people around the Lakers that Kobe likely generates $70 million for the team when you consider the seats and suites he fills, with the sponsors that come to the Lakers because they want to be associated with him and the team he plays for. Yet he takes a lot of grief for the two-year $48.5 million contract extension he signed.

Kobe doesn’t think that salary cap system limiting max contracts is fair. He told that to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard (who did the big cover story profile of Kobe for SI).

He also doesn’t think it’s fair players are pressured to take less so the team can win.

My thoughts.

• Kobe’s right, but you can’t win the argument, at least not with most fans. The problem is we can’t relate to the money involved — Kobe has made nearly $280 million over his career in salary alone, and that’s before this deal (and not counting endorsements, shoe deals, etc). You can be intellectually right that he doesn’t make even half of what he brings in to the organization, but you run into the “how much does a policeman make?” argument. Kobe plays a game — very well over his career, but it’s a game. Entertainers are overpaid in general in our society, maybe not in comparison to what they bring in, but it’s hard to feel sympathy for NBA players complaining about the size of their paychecks.

• Kobe’s contract still hamstrings the Lakers the next couple years. Lakers defenders don’t want to admit it, but it does. The Lakers struggle to attract top free agents like Carmelo Anthony because even if they sign him to a max deal they would have little other ability to upgrade the roster. Is it fair to Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan they had to take late career paycuts to help their team attract talent? No. But they did and those teams are much the better for it.

  1. tcclark - Aug 23, 2014 at 7:17 PM

    I won’t say they’re underpaid but max contracts are stupid. they need to go.

  2. connaniii - Aug 23, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    Isn’t Kobe aware of age? and the fact that he hasn’t played since 2013   p.s. Sincerely yours Edgar Patete

    • zerole00 - Aug 24, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      That doesn’t matter from a financial standpoint, he still brings a ton more money to the Lakers than he makes. I don’t even like Kobe and I’m willing to admit that.

  3. djstat - Aug 23, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    Eta talk to KoBe about his salary from 2013-2014 where he barely played…shut up Kobe….go buy your wife a diamond

  4. 1509lucky - Aug 24, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    People who side with the Owners and The League in this scenario are akin to People that root for The Casinos vs The Gamblers.

  5. 6thsense10 - Aug 24, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    The writer of this piece has it completely wrong. Kobe didn’t hamstring his team by signing his deal. The owners did it to themselves by 1. Imposing a salary cap and 2. The team itself offering the contract.

    It’s unbelievable to think someone would blame a person or accuse a player for signing a contract he was offered. A contract by the way that is already capped by the CBA.

  6. hodag54501 - Aug 25, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    Here’s an example of how the sports elite treat the fans with contempt. Without the fans, Kobe, wouldn’t have a job. Yet they think that the outrageous money they are paid now isn’t the correct amount. I can’t afford to go to an NBA game. I watch some of the local broadcasts. Yet I have to hear that he’s ‘underpaid’. So if you get ‘paid’ Kobe, who pays for that? The fans in person or those watching on TV. So what you are saying is you deserve more from the fans who are already paying too much.
    I think I’ll go fishing. The fish don’t complain when they are caught.

  7. officialhintz - Aug 25, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    First off, Kobe and the rest of the NBA will never be underpaid, these guys make millions. Secondly, let’s go to NBA terms of “underpaid”, Kobe tore his damn Achilles, and he still got paid 24 Million, when in reality he doesn’t deserve half of that. All that contract does is not allow the Lakers to contend, which Kobe is apparently upset with management because they’re not contending. And he wonders why they’re bottom feeders. Can’t stand Kobe.

  8. sixerstrong - Aug 25, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    I agree with what Kobe said without a doubt. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the league wouldn’t be sustainable by paying people what they are actually worth. The real worth of having Kobe on your team is probably in the 50 mil range. However, a replacement level player would probably worth only a few mil.

    I tend to lean libertarian on issues like this, but I don’t think that the basketball product would be nearly as good if they got rid of the players union and it was more of a free-for-all a la MLB. The haves/have-not’s model works for baseball, but would ultimately hurt the NBA, and therefore make players like Kobe worth less as the whole league will be worth less. Tough issue, indeed.

  9. billsfanaddict - Aug 25, 2014 at 7:36 PM

    uhm nope, he is actually Double Wrong… for He is no longer elite or underpaid

  10. SportsChump - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    Do you hear that, Kobe Bryant? That’s the world’s smallest violin playing solely for you.

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