Team USA Coach Takes Pot Shot at Kobe Bryant with Landon Donovan Analogy

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterJune 7, 2014

In this photo taken Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann, right, talks with Landon Donovan during a World Cup qualifying soccer match against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. The United States clinched its seventh straight World Cup appearance, getting second-half goals from Eddie Johnson and Donovan on Tuesday night in a 2-0 win over Mexico.(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Jurgen Klinsmann is making more enemies than friends in America these days.

First, the German manager came under fire for leaving Landon Donovan, a red-white-and-blue legend, off the United States national team's 23-man roster for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Now, he's invoking the name of another American sports icon—Kobe Bryant—to defend that decision.

Klinsmann told The New York Times' Sam Borden (h/t Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin):

This always happens in America. Kobe Bryant, for example — why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?

Klinsmann went on to explain that Donovan's recent uptick in performance in MLS (i.e. three goals in his last two games for the Los Angeles Galaxy) isn't necessarily indicative of a player who's truly fit to compete on the sport's biggest stage at this point, ahead of Team USA's other forwards.

"I watched the games," Klinsmann added to Borden. "What was I supposed to say? That he was good? He was not good. Not then. No way. So he had to wait."

Klinsmann certainly has a point, at least as far as Kobe is concerned. The Los Angeles Lakers inked Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million extension last November, before he'd fully recovered from a ruptured Achilles tendon. 

At the time, Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding defended the deal as one that made sense for the Lakers, both on and off the court:

So the Lakers are paying Bryant not only for what they hope will still be tremendous productivity given his track record of work ethic, fundamentals and immense pride, but also to maintain the fan interest with him. 

Of course, that was before the Black Mamba's comeback came and went. Bryant appeared in six games in December, averaging 13.8 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 42.5 percent from the floor, before succumbing to a fracture in the tibial plateau of his left knee that ended his season.

With the World Cup set to kick off next week, Klinsmann can only hope his own squad's campaign won't be cut short on account of a lack of Donovan.

Likewise, the Lakers are keeping their fingers crossed that Bryant's big-money extension doesn't turn into a sad sinkhole that consumes the Staples Center in its entirety. He's one of three players currently guaranteed to be wearing purple and gold in 2014-15, along with the 40-year-old Steve Nash and backup big man/cheerleader extraordinaire Robert Sacre.

And, well, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Jim Buss can't exactly cut Kobe like Klinsmann could with Donovan, now can they?


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