A letter to Kobe Bryant -or- How to become the Greatest of All Time

I went to a leafy liberal arts college oft mistaken for a foreign nation.  It was little known at the time and continues to be, outside of college counselors and irrational middle class private school kids with literary ambitions.  The kind of school where you literally know everyone on campus and easily spot the "visitor" on weekends - pet names for the more creatively fashioned students abound (my favorite was "birdman" and "dark helmet").  A school like this doesn't produce many "heroes" on campus - to stand out is to be critiqued.  Yet there was one who remains a hero, I assume, to this day.

The trainer.  This particular college had a very famous swim team.   Colleges of this size embrace any kind of accolades they can acquire, and to have a well known swim team is something to furiously protect.  You'd think they'd have a first-rate training staff at least, and they did - but one of them was different enough to become something of a campus Hero.

Ok, so he flashed weird cards in front of your face to help heal your kinked back, and maybe he did actually stick his finger in my mouth once because my jaw was "clicking" - but whatever, the guy worked for $1 a year.  

$1 a year.  Larry Paige and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google and Stevie Jobs, CEO of Apple all work for $1 a year.  Yeah, they make hundreds of millions in stock options, but hey, it's the thought that counts.

It's the thought that counts.  It does, and it vaulted a mere physical trainer to stardom on a campus more concerned with the going price of Natural Light at the campus liquor store ("army man" worked there) than the state of the lead butterfly-er (see, I didn't know crap about swimming).  His story was that some doctor bungled a surgery he went in for and the guy subsequently gained about 300 pounds from a hormonal imbalance.  Cue courtroom drama, settlement, riches.  Anyways for whatever reason the guy loved touching young college girls all day (wha?) and kept his job as a trainer, reducing his salary to $1 a year.

Ok, so Kobe can't take $1, but he can take the veteran's minimum at $1.25 million or whatever it is.  Think he's great now?  What if he was the first guy to reduce his salary?  Not only would that open doors to recruiting fresh talent, it would solidify his reputation as The Greatest Laker Ever.  Ok fine, maybe not solidify it but vault him to a position he's never known before.  Forget Colorado, forget the shaq debacle, forget the Raja Bell clothesline and the weird lawsuit with Vanessa and The Maid.  This would be his legacy.  The guy who tried to play for $1.

He'd make the difference back in endorsements.  Whatever couldn't be compensated for monetarily would be tripled in affection.  True affection - not just admiration or "respect for his game", but Derek Fisher level "he's a good dude" - type love.  

Come on, Kobe. You've earned enough money.  What's more important, retiring super rich (which is happening either way) or retiring beloved.  You could have both.  This is a contract the Lakers would have no problem renegotiating.  Sick of hearing about the Miami Pound Machine?  Clear enough cap space to sign Carmelo in 2011.  Or fuck it, don't even sign Carmelo and just use the rest to run all of Staples Center on solar power.  

This is all a pipe dream, but hey - it would be cool.  And Kobe, if you're reading this - do it.

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