Last month, Kobe Bryant was sitting on a folding chair following another practice at the U.S. senior national team’s training camp at Valley High in Las Vegas. He was surrounded by maybe eight or 10 reporters ready to ask him questions about all sorts of different subjects, most regarding the Americans’ impending trip to China for the Olympic Games.
Given that erstwhile Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Childress recently had signed to take his game to Greece, and that we weren’t all that far removed from U.S. high schooler Brandon Jennings accepting an offer to play in Italy, somebody asked if Bryant would accept a $50 million offer to play in Europe.
“Fifty million, two years? We goin’ to Milan. We in Milan,” Bryant said.
He pointed to Dwyane Wade, seated nearby.
“See that. That’s the backcourt. Fifty million, two years. We’re there. And ownership,” Bryant said. “(For) ownership, five years. Done.”
Then, and this will be hard to quote with precise accuracy, he said, “Ha, ha, ha.” (How does one spell out a hearty laugh, anyway?)
Read over his quotes again, if you like. He mocked the question. He considered it to be a joke. Because no one has offered him, or anyone else, $50 million a year to play basketball in Europe, and it’s likely no one ever will, because he wouldn’t take it if it were offered during his prime.
Elsewhere journalists all over the world are pretending it’s actual news that someone close to LeBron James supposedly said that if he were offered $50 million a year by a European team after his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers expires in 2010, he would consider it.
Most athletes are more like Ginobli than Kobe. Most athletes play for money. Kobe doesn't, the money is just a way to quantify something that he can't identify, a means to an end so to say. Ginobli plays the game, and takes the money that comes along with it, and there are a lot of others like him. Then there are the rest. They don't play to fill a void, and most of the time they don't love the game. It's just a job for them. They play basketball because when they were young, a coach saw how good they were and made them play. Greg Oden always wanted to be a doctor, but the basketball people weren't having that. They weren't going to let a 6'9'' 14 year old "waste" his athletic potential. People who were around Barry Bonds when he was a kid say that he never even liked baseball, but he was great at it and he was in a baseball family, so he played. The truth is that we created these athletes, starting when they were young, and they grew up to be what we raised them to be. Anyone who is playing in the pros now was a god in high school. They didn't have to work as hard in class, got all the girls they wanted, and never experienced the college application process (the first arbitrary test of your value). They got to college and found more favorable treatment, more girls, and probably some money. By the time they officially "make it" they've been conditioned, by the people who then call them egocentric.