RealGM: There’s been a lot of conflicting and confusing information floating around about Kobe Bryant‘s ability to become a free agent this summer. In an attempt to clear it all up, I’ll wade through the situation in question and answer format.
First thing’s first: Kobe can become a free agent this summer?
Yes. In the summer of 2004 the Lakers signed Bryant to a seven year contract (through 2010-11) with the option to terminate the contract early in either 2009 or 2010.
If Kobe terminates his contract early, when does he have to do so?
The deadline is June 30. Starting July 1 he’s locked in for the 2009-10 season.
If Kobe opts out, he’ll be a free agent and can sign with any team? Can the Lakers match?
If Bryant opts out he will be an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team, including re-signing with the Lakers. Since he would be an unrestricted free agent, the Lakers can’t retain him by matching a contract he signs with another team. If he signs elsewhere, then the Lakers lose him.