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L.A. Lakers: Kobe Bryant’s $24.3 Million Payday

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COMMENTARY | On November 1, 2013, the Los Angeles Lakers are contractually obligated to pay Kobe Bryant a $24.3 million balloon payment.

Oh, it doesn't end there. He'll still be owed another $6.1 million throughout the season -- to be paid in much smaller, though still quite large, balloons. The total for the season is $30.4 million.

Kobe Bryant is by far the highest-paid player in the NBA with Dirk Nowitzki coming in at almost $8 million less. NBA player contracts are guaranteed, so the fact that Kobe can't play because of an injury doesn't matter. Unless he suddenly retires, he'll get every last dollar of that contract.

It actually gets worse.

Kobe's contract pushes the Lakers above the luxury-tax threshold and costs them an additional $10 million or so. That's $40.4 million for one player.

So, the question becomes: Is Kobe worth it?

In pure basketball terms, the answer is easy: "No way!"

When he finally does return to action, he'll be about the 10th- to 15th-best player in the league -- worth roughly half what he's getting. The best player in the league by a lot, LeBron James, makes only $19 million this year. However, this year, Gilbert Arenas makes $22.3 million and he's so awful that he's playing in China.

But sports contracts aren't always about what's happening right now, this season. Players are frequently overpaid -- like Gilbert "the Money Pit" Arenas.

However, sometimes the overpay is justified by factors beyond just this season's projected performance. Derek Jeter has been overpaid for the last decade, but one could see that as a reward for helping the New York Yankees win five World Series -- and he's a sports icon.

Albert Pujols was overpaid by the Los Angeles Angels, but one could see that as a reward for helping the … um … St. Louis Cardinals win two World Series. Well, anyway, Pujols did help the Angels secure a multi-billion dollar TV contract.

Then there are guys like Joe Flacco, the 20th or so best quarterback in the NFL, who flukishly lead the Baltimore Ravens to one Super Bowl title and is now the highest-paid player in the NFL. Welcome to the Gilbert Arenas Club, Joe. Have a seat there next to Alex Rodriguez.

Ultimately, It's really up to the individual team's finances whether the insane contracts they're doling out are a complete waste.

Sure, it seems like $30.4 million ($40.4 if you count the tax) is a lot to spend on one player and that it should surely come with some sort of cancer cure or perpetual energy source.

In Kobe's case -- bringing the team five championships and being a worldwide marketing machine for the Lakers -- he's already "earned" a lot of this year's salary without even stepping on the court.

Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. You can discuss sports and pop culture with him on Twitter @JedRigney.

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