Will Kobe Bryant’s Exit Make LA Lakers a More Appealing Free-Agent Destination?

Once upon a time, the Los Angeles Lakers were the most beloved destination for the shiniest NBA stars. Late owner Dr. Jerry Buss treated summers like a stress-free spa retreat, where weaknesses were replenished and muscles were flexed. 

But the past three offseasons ran counter to history.

Since 2013, the Lakers have been spurned by Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan and a few other high-profile players. 


Losing is the most obvious factor. Their record since Howard left in 2013 is 50-131. Eventually, they’ll have to forfeit a first-round draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, too, which could hinder an organic turnaround. 

Through it all, the common denominator was a stewing Kobe Bryant and his monstrous two-year, $48.5 million contract. An annual salary that bloated is usually reserved for true franchise-altering talent, not aging heroes on the edge of a physical breakdown. The money obliterated all of Los Angeles’ financial flexibility, and Bryant’s persona—that of an unapologetic rattlesnake—scared off players who’d rather gleam than serve. 

But Bryant and his contract will officially disappear this summer. It’s an opportunity for the Buss family and general manager Mitch Kupchak to build whatever type of roster they want—whether it be around D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle’s collective skill set, or with a max-level player (or two) at the core. 

They have as clean of a sheet as any team in the league. According to Basketball Insiders, Lou Williams’ $7 million salary is the highest guaranteed deal on their books next season. (Clarkson is a restricted free agent this summer, but his cap hold is only $1.18 million, which would allow the Lakers to sign outside ...

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