Discussion

Lakers' four options with Kobe

Can the Lakers build around Kobe's contract? It's tricky, and here's why

Updated: December 9, 2013, 1:37 PM ET
By Larry Coon | ESPN Insider

Everything about Kobe Bryant is polarizing. Why should his contract extension be any different?

This is not to say that locking up the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar was a bad move. The two-year, $48.5 million agreement ensures that the face and cornerstone of the franchise likely will retire a Laker, and also sends a message to potential free agents that the Lakers continue to take care of their own. Nor is there obvious blame, from Bryant's perspective.

"This wasn't a negotiation," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. "The Lakers made their offer with cap and building a great team in mind while still taking care of me as a player. I simply agreed to the offer."

Bryant stays with the only team he has known as a professional while retaining his status as the league's highest-paid player. He also locks in his value before returning to the court, eliminating any possibility of an Achilles-related setback or loss of athleticism hurting his earning potential.

And in doing so, he willingly absorbed a 23 percent pay cut.

Still, the extension is not without adverse consequences. It is no secret that Bryant, 35, wants a sixth and even a seventh ring before he retires, but this extension takes him farther from that goal. While the Lakers will be able to afford one top-tier free agent next summer -- and that free agent must want to go to L.A. -- it will have little additional spending power to bring in the necessary pieces that would return the team to championship contention. Worse, signing a top-tier player means the Lakers likely will have to say goodbye to current mainstays like Pau Gasol.

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