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The generosity and appeal of Kobe Bryant

9/19/2011

As the negotiations between owners and players continue to miss a resolution, we inch closer to the point where games could be missed. Which, by definition, means game checks will be missed. This, in theory, also marks the point where players start to sweat, then eventually crack. After all, there are plenty of dudes still on rookie-wage deals, living at the bottom end of the NBA pay scale or, in the case of the 2012 rookie class, waiting to make a dime playing basketball. A guy like Kobe Bryant won't likely feel any pinch, but an extended offseason puts the screws to those fellas' piggy banks.

Unless, of course, a guy like Kobe Bryant throws them a bone.

From an interview with NBA Players Union Executive Director Billy Hunter, conducted by the L.A. Times' Lance Pugmire:

What role will NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James play as this moves forward?

"They've been deeply involved in the meetings we've had. I know Kobe is intimately involved in interfacing with colleagues and sharing in a pool of revenue to help the others get through this. Kobe has volunteered to do that in the event others need, he and others are prepared to loan money if necessary."

In August, Kobe reportedly delivered a passionate speech during a players meeting about the importance of remaining unified during the lockout. While I certainly commended Kobe for making his presence felt, I also felt the message, while important, was fairly ironic coming from him. After all, Bryant has already made around $200 million in salary alone, which doesn't include what's still remaining on his deal and the oodles of cash he's earned -- and could earn even during a lockout -- in endorsements. Thus, it's easy for Kobe to preach unity. Unless he's been exceptionally irresponsible with his money, he could withstand a lockout without breaking a sweat.

A willingness to loan out some dough, however, dramatically changes my outlook. That's quite literally putting his money where his mouth is, and if enough players with similar checking accounts follow suit, that could make a difference. Perhaps not enough to make an erased season palatable, since Kobe and similarly wealthy players can't be counted on to play benefactor for every (relative) NBA have-not through April. But the act certainly sends a message about a fight perhaps more serious than expected.

Either way, should the lockout last long enough to press Kobe into financial action, it's quite a generous offer.

On a more random note, a popular story line circa 2005-2007 was the Lakers couldn't sign any big name free agents "because nobody wanted to play with Kobe." (There was also the fact they had no cap space to sign a big name unwilling to play for a mid-level or below, but why let details get in the way?) Well, things have apparently changed. Not that NBA washout Rashad McCants qualifies as a big name, but he certainly wants to be a part of Team Mamba. Per The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn:

The NBA may have seen the last of Rashad McCants, unless he is allowed to return under one condition.

“The only way I would come back to the league is if I get to play with Kobe Bryant,’’ he said. “There’s nobody who thinks like me but Kobe Bryant. I just get criticized for what he used to get criticized for because I tried to establish myself the same way he did.

“I was just on a bad team.’’

Yowza! That's one heckuva specific demand for a player with a short resume and a bad reputation. Then again, what does McCants have to lose? A) It's difficult to believe he really wouldn't accept an offer from one of the other 29 teams and b) if he truly believes he's getting shut out, why not go bold? In the meantime, the Lakers will be seeking a backup for Kobe, McCants will fit the price tag (i.e, dirt cheap), and perhaps he put himself on their radar.

Props for thinking outside the box, Rashad.

(Hat tip to BDL's Kelly Dwyer on the Washburn item.)