on June 23, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)
Bryant should be shown the door
There was a time when professional athletes were much like any normal, everyday workers — they showed up, did what was expected and went home. Management made decisions affecting the company, weighing what it took to be successful with the cost of achieving that success.
Players once worked under the same system as any regular Joe does today, albeit at a salary paling in comparison to what an athlete earns in 2007. They rarely questioned management decisions, knowing that doing so would most likely provide a one-way ticket out of town.
Even today, very few of us would remain employed if we openly challenged decisions made by our bosses or even their skills in making decisions. We would be shown the door and told not to let it hit us on the posterior on our way out.
However, very few of us can score more than 30 points a game, sell tickets and jerseys or help our team win three world championships. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant can and, unlike the Everyday Joe, he isn’t afraid to let his disgust over the organization’s recent ineptitude known to the general public.
The past month’s worth of rantings by Bryant has included an expressed desire to be traded due to frustrations over the Lakers future. Just when it appeared that Lakers fans could breathe easy after Bryant’s last assertion that he wanted to remain in Tinseltown, Kobe recently flew to Spain and told owner Jerry Buss that, yes, he still wanted to be traded. Now, as was the case with O’Neal two years ago, the Lakers must face the real possibility that they might have to trade their best player and marketing chip while wondering how they will get anything close to equal value.
In the O’Neal trade, the Lakers basically received Lamar Odom since fellow acquisition Caron Butler, who has become an All-Star caliber player, now hones his craft for the Washington Wizards. The other player received in the deal, Brian Grant, has since retired.
While I can understand his frustrations regarding the Lakers and the direction in which they seem to be headed, Bryant is symptomatic of why so many people are turned off by the professional athletes of today. All too often, they want that big payday, as Bryant did and received in 2005, then bellyache when their enormous salary makes it difficult for their organization to spend the type of money necessary to surround them with other talented players.
Like the NFL, the NBA operates under a salary cap but, unlike the NFL, the NBA contracts are guaranteed. That means acquiring players that may not work out puts a tremendous financial strain on an organization since they still have to pay those players. In the Lakers case, they have made some poor financial investments on players and that inhibits opportunities to improve the team until those contracts expire.
But Bryant’s railings against his bosses are the equivalent of an associate at Chick-fil-A or Wal-Mart telling their boss how to run their corporations. In the 28 seasons that Dr. Buss has owned the Lakers, the franchise has made the playoffs 26 times and won eight world championships. Certainly, the franchise is struggling and that’s frustrating for anyone. But all sports teams — college or pro — go through peaks and valleys and the Lakers are no different.
What Bryant should have done is discuss his concerns with Dr. Buss in private, rather than airing his dirty laundry all over newspapers, radio and television. No employee, even a superstar of Bryant’s caliber, gets the type of results they desire when calling out their boss in public. A former co-worker once told me that you never win when you go up against your boss and that is what Bryant is about to discover.
I’ll be the first to admit that Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak should be fired for his trades, free agent signings and the inability to bring in top talent to pair alongside Bryant. But that decision rests with Dr. Buss — just as it is the decision of our bosses to hire and fire whoever and whomever they please. Management often sees and deals with things that the average worker doesn’t and that is no different when it comes to managing a professional sports franchise.
As is the case with many employees that constantly bellyache, perhaps Bryant should attempt to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. His inability to provide leadership to his teammates, and the manner in which he has openly questioned management’s decision making, shows an immaturity that is disturbing for a 29-year-old. This is the time when Bryant should display the wisdom and guidance attained through 11 years of work on the NBA hardcourt, but that apparently will never happen.
Bryant certainly isn’t the only athlete to openly question the direction of the team he represents. In the mid-1990s Orlando guard Penny Hardaway led a team revolt that forced the ouster of head coach Brian Hill and even Magic Johnson, one of my all-time favorite players, forced the departure of former Lakers head coach Paul Westhead and fellow guard Norm Nixon in the early 1980s.
Last season, players on the NFL’s New York Giants whined and moaned so much throughout the season that head coach Tom Coughlin’s job hung in the balance until management granted him a one-year extension.
The problem with professional athletes is that they are wealthy beyond measure and, unless their coach is named Bill Belichek, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson or Joe Torre, their earnings exceed their immediate bosses. Even former Clemson head basketball coach Tates Locke, who coached for part of a season in the NBA, once said coaching professional athletes was tough because “you’re coaching a bunch of millionaires.” Players, especially those like Bryant, throw their weight around and put organizations in a bind in an effort to appease them.
Some of the greatest athletes that ever played — Ted Williams, Rod Carew, Archie Manning, Walter Payton, Bob Lanier and Connie Hawkins — played on many a bad team. Yet, they handled such adversity with dignity and grace and any frustrations were expressed in private rather than the public forum used by Bryant and so many of today’s stars.
My attitude is that if Bryant wants to leave, then the Lakers should get rid of him — albeit with as much value in return as they can hope to achieve. No one player should be above a team or an organization and that includes Kobe Bryant.
The New England Patriots three Super Bowls, the San Antonio Spurs four NBA titles and last season’s World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals are perfect examples of what teamwork can achieve in professional sports — a world championship. But it takes players and an organization working together to achieve such a goal and that is something Bryant and the Lakers appear no longer capable of doing.
Bryant is that insubordinate employee who has trashed his company and his bosses once too often and, for that, he too must be shown the door. Hopefully, it won’t hit him in the posterior as he exits Lakerland.