Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant told ESPN that top NBA players taking discount deals to stay in the same city is a "big coup" for owners and "the popular thing to do," but he personally doesn't buy it.
The 36-year-old signed a two-year extension with Los Angeles last season for $48.5 million, which is under the maximum of what he could have made but still enough to make him the highest paid player in the league. According to ESPN, he indicated on Friday that he will retire at the end of the extension.
"I think it's a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money. Because if you don't, then you get criticized for it," he said.
"It's absolutely brilliant, but I'm not going for it. I know the new head of the players association ain't going for it, either."
Bryant was asked about Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, who re-signed with the team over the summer. The three-year, $25 million contract was well below Nowitzki's market value, but the discount allows owner Mark Cuban more financial freedom for building the rest of the team.
"I think it means he's not playing in Los Angeles," Bryant said.
Bryant has been outspoken on the topic of player contracts numerous times of late, which he said is due to the fact that he's a 19-year veteran and doesn't care about getting in trouble for it. In October, he said players should fight for their market value and shouldn't be afraid of public perception for not taking less money in the wake of a new lucrative NBA television deal.
On Friday, he explained why he ended up taking a discount with his latest extension but not as big of a one that some had hoped for.
"So did I take a discount? Yeah. Did I take as big a discount as some of you fans would want me to? No. Is it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah. So what we try to do is be in a situation where they take care of the player and the player takes care of the organization enough to put us in a championship predicament eventually."
Bryant is averaging 27.5 points and 5.1 rebounds through 12 games this season.
- Molly Geary