Can you imagine getting a $24.36 million paycheck in the mail one day?
Such is life for Kobe Bryant, who is receiving 80 percent of his 2013-14 salary as an advance payment, even though we still don't know when he'll suit up and put the injured Achilles behind him.
There's also no word on whether that check actually comes in the mail. CBS Sports' Zach Harper provides us with some awesome speculation on the topic: "Do they do that with just a straight direct deposit or will they actually give him cartoonish bags of money for him to load into a Brinks truck?"
As reported by the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus and Mike Bresnahan, Bryant is getting what's called a "balloon payment," and the rest of his massive salary will be doled out throughout the year. So don't mistake this $24.36 million as his entire salary, even though that's well above what most NBA players even dream of making in two years.
Kobe's salary is jumping from $27,849,149 last year to $30,453,805 in 2013-14, per Spotrac.com's databases, and those are the numbers I'll be using while breaking down how much the Mamba makes for each on-court contribution.
If you feel bad about how much money you make, brace yourself. These are some gaudy figures.
Last Year's Value: $357,040.37 per game
If you're jealous of this number, just wait until you see some of the ones that start popping up later. In 2012-13, it took only two games for Kobe to earn more money than a rookie on a minimum contract could in an entire year.
This year, it's going to be awfully difficult for him to match those numbers.
If he were to earn just shy of $360,000 per game, he'd have to play in 86 regular-season contests to earn his full paycheck. Seeing as there are only 82 possible ones (unless he somehow got traded during the middle of the season and picked up some additional contests), I'm pretty sure we knew this wasn't going to happen even before his Achilles held him out of the first game.
So, how much is the Mamba going to make per game in 2013-14?
Well, it's a tough question because we still don't have a definitive date for his return. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, Kobe revealed that he has no clue when he'll be back in action and refused to commit to a December return. The one interesting tidbit he revealed was that it "sounds about right" to assume he needs two or three weeks of practicing before a return.
Let's assume he starts practicing by mid-November and continues his superhuman recovery time frame, which would mean he only needs two weeks of practice before suiting up for the first time. Just for the sake of the argument, that puts his return date at Dec. 1, a home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
I'm also going to assume that of the remaining 67 games, he sits out of 10 due to both nagging injuries and the need to avoid building up too much stress on that ruptured tendon. That leaves the estimate at 57 contests, and it's a number that, while completely arbitrary, will serve as the baseline throughout this article.
Given his massive salary, that leaves the Mamba making an insane amount of cash per game. This time, he'd only need one outing to top the minimum rookie salary.
Projected Value: $534,277.28 per game
Last Year's Value: $9,243.00 per minute
To put that in perspective for the working stiffs out there, Kobe's hourly salary is a meager $554,580. Just a little bit above the minimum wage.
If he were to earn that type of dough per minute in 2013-14, the Mamba would have to suit up for 3,295 minutes in order to justify his full salary. That actually wouldn't be a career-high mark for Kobe, as he played 3,401 in 2002-03, suiting up for 41.5 minutes per contest and taking part in all 82 Lakers games.
Obviously he isn't going to match either of those numbers, and it's already impossible for him to hit 82. Remember, we're assuming that his name is called out as part of the L.A. lineup 57 times before we hit the postseason.
Now it's just a mater of how many minutes he plays each game.
After playing 38.5 and 38.6 minutes per contest for the past two seasons, it's safe to predict the number declines in 2013-14. Mike D'Antoni might have played him recklessly in the past, but he's not going to let Kobe rack up 48-minute outings while coming off an Achilles injury.
The Mamba's career low is 33.9 minutes per game (not including the first two seasons of his career, when he was building a name for himself), and that came in 2010-11 when he was constantly fighting through those nagging injuries. Let's go ahead and use that mark once more.
So, 33.9 minutes per game over the course of 57 outings comes out at 1,932.3 minutes, a number that he's admittedly topped each and every year of his career save his rookie season and the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign.
Projected Value: $15,760.39 per minute
Last Year's Value: $13,056.33 per point
Can you imagine going to the free-throw line and knowing that you'd earn $13,00 each time you made a shot? I might shake so badly that I'd do a nice Andre Drummond imitation at the stripe.
If Kobe continues to make that much moolah each time he makes the scoreboard operator work, he'd have to score 2,333 points throughout the 2013-14 campaign. That's more than anyone in the NBA scored last season, and while it's well shy of Wilt Chamberlain's record-setting 4,029 points in 1961-62, it's still a number that has been topped only 64 times in basketball history.
That might not be impossible for a healthy Kobe. But remember, we're only giving him 57 games to work with, so he'd have to average an insane 40.92 points per game.
I'm going out a limb here and saying he ain't doing that.
A more realistic goal for the Mamba is 24 points per game, as that's the lowest number he's posted since the turn of the century. If Bryant played enough minutes, he could challenge for the scoring lead even while coming off of a brutal injury, but that's not going to happen.
Twenty-four points per game over 57 games gives this particular shooting guard 1,368 points this season. He's scored more than that each year of his career other than the rookie campaign in 1996-97, but there are some serious extenuating circumstances here.
Projected Value: $22,261.55 per point
Last Year's Value: $17,234.58 per shot
In 2012-13, Kobe took only 19.1 shots per 36 minutes. It was a lower number than he'd posted since 2007-08, the result of a concerted effort to involve his teammates with more frequency.
Don't expect that to happen again.
The Mamba is the clear-cut No. 1 option in L.A. as soon as he's healthy, which will inevitably lead to him giving himself the omnipresent green light as soon as he steps onto the court. He should be right back up at 21 shots per 36 minutes—slightly lower than the 21.5 he posted in 2011-12—which prorates to 19.78 shots per game given the 33.9 minutes each outing I've estimated earlier in this article.
So, 19.78 shots per game over 57 contests is 1,127 attempts throughout the season. It's still a high number, but it seems strangely low for a player who's led the NBA in field goals attempted each of the past three seasons and six of the past eight.
However, to match his value per shot from the 2012-13 campaign, he'd have to fire away 1,767 times. That's even more strange because it would require him to let fly 31 times per outing.
Projected Value: $27,022 per shot
Last Year's Value: $59,379.85 per assist
Don't expect to see Kobe rack up very many assists in 2013-14, even though he averaged a career-high 6.0 dimes per game last year. He was occasionally asked to function as a de facto point guard, and the results were rather nice.
In order to earn nearly $60,000 per assist this year, Kobe would have to record an assist 513 times.
Good luck with that, Kobe.
Does anyone feel confident in the shot-happy 2-guard averaging just shy of nine dimes per game?
Given the limited played time and the need for someone who can consistently create offense, Kobe isn't going to come anywhere close to that number. Expecting him to average four assists per game is much more realistic, even if he's topped that number every year but the first three seasons of his NBA career.
If we assume four assists per game for 57 outings, that's 228 dimes. And no, that doesn't translate to $22.80, because Kobe is still going to be making more than $30 million.
Projected Value: $133,569.32
Last Year's Value: $64,316.74 per rebound
Kobe Bryant has been scarily consistent on the boards throughout his career. Take a look at these per-36-minute numbers over the past 10 years, courtesy of Basketball-Reference:
There really aren't many outliers there, so while you should still expect to see Kobe taking it a bit easier on the glass, five boards per 36 minutes is a realistic estimate. And given the 33.9 minutes per game we're using in this article, that comes out at 4.71 rebounds per contest.
Over 57 games, Kobe would be at just over 268 boards.
It's well shy of the 474 he'd have to record in order to match last year's value. Of course, that's only natural because 474 means that Kobe would need to average right around 8.3 rebounds per contest.
Projected Value: $113,633.60 per rebound
Last Year's Value: $618,869.98 per win
The Lakers don't really care who's on the court when they get a win, so I'm not discriminating here. A win with Kobe on the bench counts the same as a win when he's the leading scorer.
Last year, the Lake Show compiled a 45-37 record, and that would be just about the upper ceiling for this year's squad, seeing as they didn't find a great way to replace the impact Dwight Howard made in the paint.
In order for Kobe to be earning just under $619,000 per game, L.A. would need to go 49-33 this season, which seems quite unrealistic. As a reference point, I had the Golden State Warriors winning 50 games and earning the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference in my last set of record projections.
The Lakers? They came in at No. 12, earning a more mediocre 34 wins.
Sticking with that prediction, the Mamba would be coming out at a much higher value per victory. In fact, we're well back over the minimum salary again.
Projected Value: $895,700.15 per win