Kobe Bryant's direct participation in labor talks overdue
Rarely does Kobe Bryant's schedule involve a wasted moment.
While the general public remained enamored with the NBA playoffs, Bryant traveled to Germany and received an innovative procedure on his surgically repaired right knee. As teams from Turkey, China and Italy publicly clamored for his services this off-season, his Nike promotional trips coincided in those areas to maximize his marketing brand. With everyone wondering when or if the 2011-2012 NBA season will start on time, it's safe to presume Bryant's still grinding away in the weight room to build leg strength, discovering new nuances through game footage and sweating in the gym.
As first reported by Newsday's Alan Hahn, Bryant's busy schedule will also entail being a part of Friday's meeting between the league owners and the players union. This has been long overdue. Aside from reportedly attending a union meeting in Los Angeles last month, Bryant's been eerily silent on the NBA lockout, as he was with Mike Brown's hire. Asked during his exit interview if he would take an active role in lockout negotiations, Bryant joked, "I like getting foul calls."
But this isn't a laughing manner. Having Bryant sit across the room from owners who believe the players should carry the brunt of the financial losses 23 of the league's 30 teams have suffered in the past season would make a huge difference. No matter how great Derek Fisher has been in representing the players union with class, intelligence and persistence, Bryant's star power makes his words more powerful. With the owners seeing most of the league's players as simply unreliable puzzle pieces with bloated contracts, Bryant's talent and work ethic provide a visual reminder that the owners' view is just a caricature.
In fairness, the union has rightfully ensured that their officials speak mostly in solidarity to avoid any media gaffes among the league's players. But Bryant's case is different. He's intelligent. He's intimidating. He's one of the stars that makes the NBA so popular. In a fight between billionaires versus millionaires, Bryant's presence alone may not necessarily result in the union maintaining a soft cap, guaranteed contracts and a fair share of basketball-related income, but it gives them their best chance.
Too bad it didn't come sooner.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers point guard Kobe Bryant receives his 2010 NBA Championship ring from NBA Commissioner David Stern during a pregame ceremony Oct. 26. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times