Kobe Bryant is featured in Sports Illustrated this week, which is strange since he hasn’t done anything in sports for a while. He’s not playing for USA Basketball. He’s only played six games for the Lakers in the last year. Somebody recently made a movie about him–trying to capture the essence of what it’s like to be Kobe Bryant–but that’s not sports, that’s entertainment. Oh, there’s no difference you say? Sports is entertainment? Well that explains why Kobe’s being featured. And why he’s underpaid.
Star power drives the NBA. In SI writer Chris Ballard explains: “Bryant believes that players like himself and LeBron James are underpaid, compared to what they would be worth on the free market (he told friends he thinks James would be worth roughly $75 million on an open market).” The fact is that LeBron James’ real competition isn’t Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant–it’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Batman. People have a finite amount of time and money for entertainment and they have to choose. The stars who make people choose the NBA? They’re underpaid.