Kobe Bryant’s $84-million extension has him talking about being a Laker for life
Kobe Bryant stood before the media Friday night wearing a black and gray shirt rolled up to his elbows, black slacks and shoes.
He had a smile on his face, which included a trimmed beard.
Earlier in the day, Bryant signed a three-year, $84-million contract extension to remain with the Lakers for the next four seasons.
Now he was ready to talk about being a Laker for life, about his joys of signing his first contract as a rookie in 1996 and about signing an extension that could keep him here to the age of 35.
“It’s truly a huge honor,” Bryant said after the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz, 106-92, at Staples Center. “When I walked in today to sign the contract, they had a picture on the way of the first contract that I signed when I was 17 and I had no facial hair.
“I can remember the day like it was yesterday. To fast forward to today, it’s really, really a blessing to be in one city.”
When training camp began at the end of September, the Lakers and Bryant quietly began to negotiate an extension.
Along the way, reports had him opting out of his contract this summer and testing the free-agent market.
But Bryant, 31, said he didn’t waver, and neither did the Lakers.
Still, Bryant was asked what took so long for the contract to get signed.
“I don’t know. We’re both lazy, I guess,” Bryant joked. “We just weren’t . . . pressing for it. It was something we both knew was going to get done.”
Bryant makes $23,034,375 this season and will make $24,806,250 next season before his new three-year deal kicks in.
Bryant had an opt-out clause in his contract that he could have exercised this summer, but he said that was never considered.
He just took his time.
“I didn’t want it to be a distraction,” Bryant said. “We got stuff that we need to do and it’s an unnecessary distraction. There was really no point. We just handled our business behind closed doors.”
Bryant said that signing the contract “pretty much” assures that he’ll finish his career as a Laker.
He’ll be 35 when the contract expires after 2013-14 season and said it’s “possible” that this could be his last contract, adding, “I doubt it, but it’s possible.”
Bryant had 25 points against the Jazz, but he was just five-for-23 shooting from the field.
That didn’t matter.
The Lakers won and Bryant had inked his new deal.
“I expected that Kobe would sign again,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “It’s the logical choice. It’s a good choice for him and the organization.”
The Lakers have seven players signed to guaranteed contracts next season and they have a core group of Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom wrapped up for at least the next three seasons and beyond.
But Jackson said that has no bearing on his future with the team.
He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him $12 million.
He’ll get his health checked after the season ÃÂ something he always does ÃÂ and then he’ll sit down with Lakers owner Jerry Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchack and decide on whether to sign another contract to coach the Lakers next season.
“I’m not going to buy into anything of three, four years in that kind of situation,” Jackson said. “I just don’t think that that’s in the cards at all. But I can look at a season one year at a time right now and feel comfortable with a commitment that I can generate maybe enough energy to get through another year, or push the team hard enough as a coach to them through a year.
“But when you talk about those long-term things, there’s got to be a change here in the near future. There [has to be a] successor, a coach that is able to deal with these players and help them on with their game.”
During his post-game news conference, Bryant said “one more person” has to sign an extension.
That person was Jackson.
“I enjoy playing for him,” Bryant said. “I made it very clear to him today that I would love to see him be back.”
Note: Andrew Bynum, who missed his eighth consecutive game with a strained left Achilles’ tendon, said he will see the doctor again Monday in hopes that he gets cleared to practice soon and perhaps even play.
Bynum is hoping that he’ll be able to play Thursday night at Denver.
“You see me walking out, right?” Bynum said as he walked with no limp after the game Friday night. “I’m feeling better.”