Lakers Sign Kobe Bryant to Insane $48.5 Million Deal

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 25 2013 12:29 PM

Lakers Sign Kobe Bryant to Insane $48.5 Million Deal


Photo by Kevin Lee/Getty Images

Every few years the National Basketball Association's owners gather collectively around the bargaining table and squeeze the players' union for givebacks and concessions. They drive a hard bargain, and they do it effectively. The owners are all rich guys, and the ferocity with which they screw their workforce makes you believe that being a rich guy involves some level of knowledge of how to get money.

And then as individuals they sign absurd agreements with players in which it seems like they've forgotten absolutely everything there is to know about negotiations. The latest example is the Los Angeles Lakers agreeing to pay Kobe Bryant $23.5 million next year and $25 million the year after that.

Have I mentioned that Kobe is 35? Or that he's currently not playing with a ruptured Achilles?


Under this deal, Bryant will continue to be the highest paid player in the NBA. But at this point in his career, nobody thinks he's the best player in the NBA. Or the second-best. Or the third-best. Nor does anyone believe his place on the rankings list will rise over the next two years. But most egregiously of all, the thing you see with these deals is that the Lakers weren't bidding against anyone. Who else was going to sign Kobe to a two-year, $48 million contract in his late 30s?

Particularly odd is that precisely because the owners drive such a hard bargain with the players union, these kinds of bad contracts are a huge burden on a team. The Lakers are an economic juggernaut when they put a winning basketball team on the court and could easily afford to sentimentally overspend on an iconic player like Bryant. Except, that is, for the small matter of the salary cap and the luxury tax. Under the rules of the CBA, spending on Bryant crowds out spending on other players, and overpaying your iconic star only guarantees that there won't be money left over to build a team around him.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 8:15 AM Ted Cruz Will Not Join a Protest of "The Death of Klinghoffer" After All
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 8:27 AM Only Science Fiction Can Save Us! What sci-fi gets wrong about income inequality.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 7:30 AM Ring Around the Rainbow
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.