It would take a person of uncommonly cruel competitive constitution to rain on that parade, right?
Or, you know, Kobe Bryant.
“If you ask me if I’m okay with Tim [winning his sixth championship], I’m not,” Bryant told ESPN while on location for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (via InsideSoCal.com’s Mark Medina). “I’m not okay with that.”
It’s not exactly clear whether Bryant was speaking in jest. Half-jest, even. Although given the quote’s placement—buried at the bottom of a bigger story involving U.S. men’s soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann taking Kobe to task for his two-year, $48.5 million extension—it seems reasonable to believe he wasn't speaking with complete disdain.
Kobe is nothing if not a hyper-competitive dude. To Bryant, Duncan winning a sixth chip wouldn’t simply mean he’d been bested by an inter-generational foe; it would mean Duncan had done something Kobe couldn’t: match Michael Jordan’s ring count.
But as Bleacher Report’s Kelly Scaletta writes, there’s a certain disconnect between Bryant’s supposed desire to match his high-flying predecessor and the enormous two-year extension that will doubtless make it difficult for the Los Angeles Lakers to surround him with championship-caliber talent:
That doesn't mean he had to take it. He has a mouth. He could have said, ‘No, I prefer that money to be spent on my teammates so I can win another ring. Give me Duncan’s deal.’ He didn't. He had the freedom to, but he wasn't obligated to accept the deal.
And no, I’m not saying he did something wrong either. Again, I’m saying he made a choice.
As far as the cap is concerned, it makes no difference whether the Lakers offered him the money or he asked for the money. The same amount is left for free agency. Either way, he still chose to receive more money over receiving better teammates.
Maybe Bryant believes his team will do everything in its power—up to and including paying boatloads in luxury taxes—in order to give him the best title chance possible. And as Scaletta notes innumerable times, it’s not like Bryant isn’t worth that $48.5 million; given what he’s meant for his franchise, he absolutely is.
As for his remarks on Duncan, we’re just going to assume this whole thing falls somewhere on the scale between rival bitterness and self-motivational gamesmanship.