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Kobe Bryant's overseas venture would weaken players union

October 3, 2011 | 11:00 am

Kobe Bryant

Should Kobe Bryant play overseas, it could help spur momentum into a new collective bargaining agreement. That might happen, however, because the move would just further weaken the players union.

It would send a message to NBA owners that fighting for a larger share of basketball-related income, instituting a soft cap and eliminating guaranteed contracts would come at the price of one of the league's fixtures taking his talents and marketing brand elsewhere. 

But it would also provide two painful reminders to the players union surrounding the NBA lockout. If Bryant's busy playing overseas, it's less likely he would take time and effort in helping the union fight for a deal that would at least reduce the magnitude of the owners' inevitable victory in the negotiations. It would also illustrate Bryant as one of the few who can financially afford a lost season and still make a cushy income. Meanwhile, middle-tier talent would either settle for inexpensive deals or remain idle as both parties nervously await lost paychecks. 

Though it's tempting to believe Bryant's overseas efforts would give the players union more leverage at the negotiating table, it's misguided to think any defection would lead his colleagues to leave for overseas en masse.  The free agents and middle-tier players who have gone overseas aren't commanding attractive deals. Deron Williams, the only league's marquee player who has gone overseas,  made his debut last week with the Turkish-team Besiktas, which signed him to a one-year, $5-million deal. That hardly matches the two-year, $34-million contract he currently has with the New Jersey Nets. There are simply not enough spots for everyone and very little money for most. 

One of the lone exceptions points to Bryant. But even if max contracts actually illustrate players such as Bryant earning much less than they're actually worth, this labor fight points elsewhere. That's directed to the rank-and-file players that prove replaceable if only they didn't have such bloated salaries. Without Bryant's presence to fight for them, it's more likely they'll be forced to accept a deal less to their liking. 


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-- Mark Medina

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Photo credit: Matteo Bazzi / EPA / Sept. 28, 2011)