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Kobe Bryant challenges notion players should take below market value

Lakers star Kobe Bryant warms up before Sunday's preseason loss to the Golden State Warriors.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

While still recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles last November, Kobe Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5-million extension with the Lakers.

The team has drawn criticism for giving the now 36-year-old veteran a contract that limits the team’s spending power, given the need to add star power to the roster.

Bryant has a different perspective on his extension, and the business of the NBA in general.

“I’m one of the luckiest basketball players in the league because I got very fortunate to be with an organization that takes care of its players,” said Bryant after practice on Tuesday.

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The NBA locked out the players before the 2011-12 season, claiming a high number of teams were losing money each season. The end result was a collective bargaining agreement that reduced the share of basketball related revenue to the players from roughly 57% to 50%.

“It’s very easy to look at the elite players around the league and talk about the amount of money they get paid,” said Bryant. “But we don’t look at what the owners get paid, or how much revenue they generate off the backs of these players.

“Now you have a TV deal that comes out and you look at it almost being up a billion dollars from the previous one,” he continued. “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in this next labor agreement.... I’m sure they’ll try to lock us out again, and harden the cap even more.”

Last week, the NBA announced a new agreement with the parent companies of TNT, ABC and ESPN on a $24.2-billion, nine-year deal that could raise the league’s annual revenue by nearly a billion dollars.

Soon after, Bryant gave his thoughts on Twitter, “Players are ‘encouraged’ per new CBA to take less to win or risk being called selfish+ungrateful while [the NBA television] deal goes UP by a BILLION #biz”

“I think people get that confused very easily in understanding that players should take substantially less than their market value, in order to win championships,” said Bryant. “I think as players, we need to hold our ground, and not be afraid of what the public perception is, but instead try to educate the public.”

Bryant said he was grateful to the Lakers for going against the trend of some of the other franchises that have gotten some of their stars to take contracts below market value.

“I think it speaks volumes not only to me and to the city, but to other players around the league as well,” said Bryant. “When you look around at some of the other owners that try to milk their players or get rid of them or discard them. This organization doesn’t do that.”

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Since the lockout, franchise values have skyrocketed with the Clippers recently selling for $2 billion, and the Milwaukee Bucks for $500 million.

The tricky path for the Lakers is holding to their standard of rewarding their stars financially while finding a way to rebuild under the constrictive rules of the NBA’s most recent collective bargaining agreement.

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.


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