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The Lakers championship window is now officially open through 2014 — and Kobe Bryant is staying a Laker for life. As it should be.
Completing negotiations that had been going on since before the season started, Kobe Bryant has signed a three-year extension on to his deal (which had one year left after this one). He will be a Laker until the summer of 2014 now.
"We are extremely pleased that we were able to reach an agreement and come to terms on the extension at this time," said (Lakers General Manager Mitch) Kupchak said in a released statement. "Kobe has been a cornerstone of the Lakers for well over a decade, helping to lead us to four NBA Championships and in the process developing into one of the greatest players in basketball history."
"Two of our main goals heading into this season were to sign Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to contract extensions," continued Kupchak. "With the signing of Pau earlier this season and the signing of Kobe today, we were able to accomplish those goals, helping to keep the core of this team intact for the foreseeable future and in turn help to ensure the franchise's continued success over the years to come."
It’s a lot of money, the terms of he deal are not yet public but it’s going to be in the $80 million range for those three years. Bryant is worth it. The Lakers sell out Staples Center nightly, from the top of the 300 section to the luxury suites, because people will pay to see Kobe Bryant play. He is the draw. It is his jersey half the people in Los Angeles seem to own. He is the attraction.
The fact Bryant signed with the Lakers is not a surprise (although he could have made more money opting out and resigning), but the timing was a bit odd. Sources say that basically the same offer has been on the table since October. Bryant had a lot of things to weigh, from whether the Lakers would stay in contention to the upcoming new Collective Bargaining Agreement being discussed. It can be hard to read the market. Apparently he had looked at it enough and wanted to stay with the Lakers, so he can continue to commute to games via helicopter.
Bryant will $23 million in salary this year, will make $24.8 next year. (His endorsement deals are estimated to basically double that salary.) Agreeing to this extension locks him in at this max salary into the new CBA, which will kick in for the 2011-12 season (likely after a lockout).
It also locks the Lakers in as title contenders for four more seasons. Both Bryant and Gasol are locked up through 2014, as is Ron Artest. Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum have deals that can extend through 2013. That means the core of this Lakers team is locked up. Role players will have to be found — as will a new point guard — but the hard part is getting the core that can win a title. There are only so many of those guys.
And the Lakers have locked theirs up.