COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Lakers' bizarre season took an other-worldly turn for the worse when Kobe Bryant went down with an Achilles rupture that ended his outstanding season.
Then, things got really weird.
The Lakers, sans Bryant, beat two elite teams in consecutive games they had to win -- something they struggled to do all season long even with their best player suiting up. They not only made the playoffs, but secured the No. 7 seed to earn a series matchup with the hobbled San Antonio Spurs. Additionally, Dwight Howard looks like the guy fans gushed about when the Lakers pulled the trigger on that blockbuster deal last summer, and Pau Gasol is playing like one of the best players in the world again.
Based on that information, could the Lakers actually use the amnesty provision on Kobe Bean Bryant?
Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times wrote a fantastic piece that breaks down the details of such a scenario. Though it's hard to grasp that the amnesty provision when it comes to Bryant is a potential course of action for the Lakers, it's very much in play.
But as much as it may make sense given the circumstances, here are five good reasons why the purple-and-gold wouldn't dare amnesty the Black Mamba:1. He's Kobe Bryant
Bryant is an icon in Los Angeles and NBA legend. The Lakers wouldn't blemish his career with even the association of cutting him loose in such a fashion as the amnesty provision would. Granted, he'd still get paid his over $30 million salary, but it would be an unceremonious exit for the NBA icon.
He deserves better, and as Pincus rightly points out, the Lakers don't historically make moves with pinching pennies in mind. That means that this is about more than dollars, but the storied career of a legend.
If the Lakers did in fact pull the trigger on the move, it would be the ultimate display of doubting him. How silly would it be for the team that reaped the benefits of Bryant's ability to silence his critics over 17 years to abandon him now?2. Mitch Kupchak said so
Even though he didn't shut the door on the possibility of exploring it down the road, the Lakers general manager was quick to dismiss any notion that they would amnesty Bryant when he was asked following the injury. Via the Los Angeles Times:
"That's not even something that we've discussed," Kupchak said. "That's the furthest thing from our mind right now."
His words at face value seem to leave the door open for further evaluation down the road if Bryant's injury doesn't progress, but in addition to these comments, Kupchak went on to say that he's fully confident Bryant will return quickly and without issue.
He believes that, and it's worth anyone banking on the amnesty move to keep in the back of their mind.3. It would create a PR disaster
The Lakers' fan base is one of the most knowledgeable in sports, but they're still fans that let passion get the better of reason from time to time. Because of that, some really believe that their peers would all be OK with such a move.
But the fact is that Bryant is so popular and means so much to the city, the NBA and basketball from a global standpoint, seeing him go through an amnesty situation would create a storm of backlash that would be unprecedented in Hollywood. That's a heavy statement.
Even the great John Black, one of the best public relations folks in the business, wouldn't want any part of that.
4. Kobe could walk away
If the Lakers amnesty Bryant, they would risk him leaving for another team. They would forfeit their Bird rights -- their ability to pay him more than any other team by exercising that provision and be on equal footing with those franchises when his contract expires after the 2013-14 season.
That means that while Bryant has said he will be a Laker for life, there are no guarantees that he doesn't walk down the breezeway at Staples Center after sitting out a full season and don a Clippers jersey on a team that is a couple of pieces away from contending for a title.
That's a far-fetched notion to be sure, but it's a risk the Lakers could mitigate by sticking to their word and keeping him under contract.
It's one that's not worth taking.5. Nothing about the amnesty provision says "Lakers"
The Lakers are in the business of winning titles and putting on a show. Moreover, they are a franchise built with a winning pedigree and are the gold standard of the NBA, despite what Laker-haters (even the brilliant ones like SB Nation's Tom Ziller) would have you believe. There is some uncertainty now that the great Jerry Buss has passed away, but his children at the helm are committed to winning and carrying on the legacy he established.
It's difficult to imagine that they would, if even temporarily, cut ties with one of their all-time greats to save cash given their seemingly boundless revenue stream. They received $5 billion from their television deal with Time Warner Cable alone.
In this period of uncertainty surrounding the franchise, the only thing that has remained constant and given fans some solace is the fact that Bryant will always be in the purple and gold, for better or for worse.
Injured, healthy or somewhere in between, Bryant is indeed a Laker for life.
Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as a Southern California-based sports journalist and editor. He contributes to SB Nation in addition to Yahoo! Sports and is the Managing Editor of Sports Out West.
Catch up with him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kobe Bryant
- The Lakers