On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers officially announced that Kobe Bryant, who earned $30,453,000 in salary for the 2013-14 NBA season, would not return for the final 18 games of the season. Bryant missed the early part of the season recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, and his return to the court was cut short after he suffered a fracture in his knee.
For the 2013-14 season, Bryant will only have taken part in six games.
One does need a calculator to figure out that Bryant earned more than $5 million per game. However, a calculator was used to work out that Bryant earned an extraordinary $171,084 per minute on the floor. That figure is not meant to cause outrage as much as it is meant to explain the level of success and fame the Black Mamba has attained 18 years into his professional career.
Starting out the season, Bryant travelled with the team to China on a preseason tour designed to expand the brand of the NBA and the Lakers. Still recovering from a torn Achilles, Bryant did not play in the exhibition games in Beijing or Shanghai, but his mere presence in the building was enough to have fans screaming hysterically.
In Beijing, Bryant’s face constantly flashed across the big screen, and the packed arena went wild with each projection. For the fans in China, seeing Bryant sitting on the sidelines made the cost of the tickets worthwhile.
After returning to the United States, fans would regularly utilize social media to ask beat writers and team reporters if Bryant was travelling on road trips with the hopes to catch a glimpse of the all-time great sitting on the sidelines.
Even when he was not playing, Bryant still sold tickets. He is so accomplished that a simple stroll through the tunnel onto the Lakers’ bench wearing a black suit created murmurs that interrupted the game and took the crowd’s attention from his teammates, who were actually playing in competitive games.
Sure, Bryant earned more than $30 million in salary and only played six games, but his value to the Lakers stretched far beyond those 178 minutes he dressed in a jersey and competed for the purple and gold.
Earlier in the season, Bryant signed on for two more years with the Lakers, and his primary goal must be to return and play at a level acceptable of his high standards. Before even thinking about going after that illusive sixth title, Bryant needs to prove he can return to the court, adjust his game and stay healthy.
With the aging Steve Nash providing an up-close example of how quickly a devastating injury can steal away the final years of a Hall-of-Fame career, Bryant must understand that there is no guarantee he will ever hit those high notes again.
As much as he has to prove it to the critics and naysayers, Bryant needs to prove that he can still play to himself. For the 2013-14 season, Bryant failed to fully return, and no one is aware of that failure more so than no. 24.
For an NBA player approaching his 36th birthday and entering his 19th season as a professional and coming off a fractured knee and a torn Achilles, self-doubt is an everyday activity.
"Self doubt is there. It's always been there," Bryant said on Wednesday. "I think it's really what you do about that self doubt to let it kind of dominate you or you can choose to face it and take it head on."
Bryant can likely overcome the self-doubt, but can he overcome his body?