There’s no predicting when Kobe Bryant will return to the basketball court. Who knows how he will look after rehabbing a torn left Achilles tendon. It’s hard to say whether he will end up with more than five NBA championship rings in what’s presumed to be his final contract expiring following the 2015-16 season.
Gauging Bryant’s post-retirement career remains equally as challenging namely because he’s kept those options close to the vest. But in a recent interview with Bloomberg, the Lakers’ star suggested he could have interest in owning a sports franchise after initially stating in past years that role had no appeal to him.
“I might reconsider now, considering the new, you know, collective bargaining rules,” Bryant said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television. “It might make sense to own a team… Yeah. Well, I mean, I’ll look into [ownership opportunities in other sports leagues like Soccer]. Sport is something I’m very passionate about, obviously. And, you know, it’s– that’ll never go anywhere. So to be around sports in that type of fashion I guess, you know, you never say never.”
Bryant referred to the NBA’s recent labor day that penalizes high-spending teams, such as the Lakers, in luxury taxes. Bryant hardly was negatively affected by the deal personally. The Lakers signed Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million extension that ensures he remains the NBA’s highest paid player even if it marked a relative paycut from the $30.45 million he’s making this season. Despite both sides saying Bryant simply accepted the Lakers’ lone offer, Bryant fielded plenty of criticism for his extension considering it only enables the Lakers to pursue one more max-level free agent within the next two years, instead of two.
Other former Lakers have gotten involved in the business aspect.
After selling off his minority share of the Lakers, Magic Johnson became part of the ownership group last year to purchase the Dodgers. Despite dismissively calling the Sacramento Kings “the Queens” during the team’s playoff matchups with the Lakers earlier this decade, Shaquille O’Neal became a minority owner this season.
Would Bryant follow that path?
“Well we differ a little bit, you know? I really enjoy building things, you know?” Bryant said. “I enjoy the process of– you know, starting a company and– or partnering with somebody that’s launching a company, and then adding creative, or marketing, or helping with the design of the product, from the inception of the brand– more so than, you know, partnering with an established brand and just kinda lending your name to it. I enjoy actually getting into the trenches and growing something from the beginning to the end.”
Bryant has showed that in recent years with his extensive involvement with Nike. On Wednesday, he led a presentation in an event to promote his new shoes, the Kobe Elite 9, which features extra padding to accommodate his left Achilles tendon. Bryant also makes annual offseason trips to China, among other countries, to promote his Nike brand. Will he become a Nike executive?
“I’m the executive for my own brand of products, and I’ve learned a great deal from Nike,” Bryant said. “I think it’s tough for athletes though because you’re asking to wear two hats that contradict each other. So from an athlete’s perspective, you have to be passionate about your sport, right? You have to think team first and winning first, right? But then when you have to put on the business hat, then you get the public backlash of being a business mind, of being a business person. And, for whatever reason, I think athletes become a little reluctant to actually do business things, and to make business decisions because of that. And, you know, I think that’s something that needs to change.”
Whether that involves Bryant becoming part of an ownership group remains unclear. But considering Bryant’s shed some interest, it’s safe to say the feeling among other organizations would become mutual.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org