The entire basketball world was shocked yesterday morning when it was announced the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant reached agreement on a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension.
Bryant, 35, was slated to become a free agent at season’s end and coming off a torn Achilles, it was shocking a deal was reached before he played in a game this season. The future Hall of Famer will make $23.5 million next season and $25 million in 2015-16 as many have criticized him for not taking a substantial pay cut.
However, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak believes Bryant did take lesser money:
Mitch Kupchak on Kobe: “Obviously, he took a pay cut. A substantial pay cut … (It was) fair on both sides. We’re comfortable.”
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 26, 2013
Yes, Bryant technically took a pay cut from the insane $30.4 million he’s making this season, but with hopes of landing two max players, many were looking for him to make between $15-$20 million. The 2014 free agent class is top heavy with stars like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, but signing Bryant to this deal almost ensures Kupchak and company could only sign one more max player.
Not to mention, Bryant’s contract now leaves Pau Gasol in a bind since he’d have to take a substantial pay cut, far more than Bryant “took” if he wants to finish his career with the Lakers. During the summer, Bryant alluded to the fact he wouldn’t take less money and said he’d try and get as much money as he could.
Meanwhile, Bryant is unlikely to play on the Lakers three-game road trip that begins tonight as he’s practicing regularly with the team. Without him, the Lakers stand at 7-7 and have made great strides in their three-game winning streak.
Whether you agree with Kupchak or not, it’s clear the Lakers have a plan centered around Bryant for the next two seasons as he looks to claim his sixth championship ring in purple and gold.
VIDEO: Kobe Bryant Says “This Wasn’t A Negotiation.”