United States soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann came under plenty of fire last month for leaving star midfielder Landon Donovan off the American World Cup team. In a recent New York Times Magazine piece, Klinsmann criticized American sports for weighing past accomplishments greater than future potential.
Klinsmann feels that the Los Angeles Lakers are guilty of doing just that with Kobe Bryant, giving him a two-year, $48.5 contract extension last fall.
"This always happens in America," Klinsmann told the NY Times Magazine. "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?"
Bryant, 35, has won five championships with the Lakers, but ruptured his Achilles tendon to end the 2012-13 season and played only six games this past 2013-14 season after suffering a knee injury.
Still, Bryant vows that he’ll be back and able for the task of returning the Lakers to their winning ways after a forgettable 27-55 finish. Perhaps a reported steak dinner with Michael Jordan in Beverly Hills on Wednesday night increased Bryant’s motivation to win another NBA title. Jordan has six rings to Bryant’s five.
As for Klinsmann and the United States soccer team’s chances in the World Cup, the opinionated coach isn’t about to sugarcoat playing against a stacked field of Ghana, Portugal and Germany this summer in Brazil.
"We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet," Klinsmann told the NY Times. "For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament. Realistically, it is not possible."
Would the Black Mamba ever say that?
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(Photos from left: Elsa/Getty Images, Christian Petersen/Getty Images)