Why Kobe Bryant will not win a sixth NBA championship

Kobe Bryant’s 2-year/$48.5 million extension ensured that he will retire as a life-long member of the Los Angeles Lakers. En route to an incredible five NBA championships, 15 All-Star appearances, two scoring titles, an MVP award, and countless other accolades, Kobe will go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history. That is indisputable.

But this contract seals the fact that he will also go down as one of the league’s most selfish players.

The Lakers just underwent a tumultuously traumatic experience in 2012-13 where injuries and the Dwight Howard saga led to vast disappointment. Little blame for last year should fall on the sturdy shoulders of Bryant, who at age 34 managed to put up 27.3 points per game along with a career-tying high of 6.0 assists per game. Whatever the Lakers demanded of him, as pure Kobe fashion calls for, he tried to answer the bell. It is this very stubborn-to-a-fault drive that has prevented him from realizing that the bell tolls for him and he must relinquish full power of the Lakers.

What he did with taking this much money was nothing short of crippling the Lakers for the next two-years…and probably more.

As has already been well-discussed in the NBA blogosphere, Kobe’s tremendous contract limits the Lakers ability to attract more than a single big name and might even hamper that potential suitor’s desire to sign. The message from the Lakers front office that made Bryant again the highest paid player is clear: this is Kobe Bryant’s team.

Why would LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, or any other superstar want to come into a situation like that? Setting aside the fact that Kobe Bryant has proven throughout his career to more than frequently alienate teammates (all the way from the worst in Smush Parker and Kwame Brown to the best in Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal), the financials just don’t add up. You simply can’t put together a reasonable squad around Kobe and another max contract player and expect to fill out your roster with anything better than D-league players.

Lakers Nation worships the ground that Kobe walks on. Delivering five NBA championships is no joke and providing inspiration for a generation is something that’s priceless.

But look at Kobe Bryant throughout his career—the feud with Shaq, the requests for trades, the battles with Phil Jackson and Andrew Bynum, hefty criticism of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard—and you’ll realize that it would be criminally incomplete to say that Kobe cares about 1) his team and 2) about winning.

He wants to be a winner only if he is the main man. And as such he is not all about the team. He plays with a me-first attitude in a team sport…who just happens to be gifted enough to be able to cover up that major flaw.

Finally, he will see that it costs him. In the twilight of his career he still can look at guys across generations in the NBA today doing things that he could have done. LeBron James, the best player in the game, took a pay-cut to win a championship. Kevin Durant likewise took a pay-cut to stay in OKC (although results have been murky). Tim Duncan, the last piece of greatness in Kobe’s era, took not only a pay-cut but a diminished role in the Spurs. Even the original Big Three in Boston finagled around the salary cap to put together a championship run.

Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, is sitting on the sideline collecting north of $30 million or about 133 percent of LeBron’s salary in 2014. And nobody knows what his return will be like. So, the conclusion here is very simple:

Kobe Bryant does not care about winning as much as LeBron, Durant, and Duncan.

If he did, there would have been no feud with Shaq. There would have been no ousting of Phil Jackson. There would have been no demands to be traded when the wins faded in the mid-00s (largely thanks to his desire to dismantle the great pieces around him). And there certainly would not have been a $49 million contract over two years that all but voids any relevancy of the Lakers in both a legendary draft class and a couple huge free agency periods.

Kobe wants to win with his rules and he has gotten away with it many times before because of his immense talent and work ethic. What's sad is the fact that his ego got in the way of even more greatness.

Instead, that ego puts the Lakers in a hole. The future is bleak with Kobe taking home excessive dollars. Lakers fans now may say that he has earned it, but when it the misery unfolds, the tune will change as quickly as it once did. When free agents that could have signed start flying by, the whispers will begin. Shouldn’t he retire? Are his legs really going to hold up? Can he carry the Lakers to a championship?

About a year ago, I made a bet with a friend that Kobe Bryant will never win another NBA championship. Thanks to Kobe himself, I am even more confident that that was bet well placed because Kobe Bryant will never win another NBA championship. And his legacy just might be tainted in the process.

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