Would Players Prefer to Play with Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony?

The NBA free agent season is upon us which means many teams are looking to land a free agent or two who could be the missing piece that could get their franchise back to the playoffs or even contend for an NBA Championship.

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (R) talks with New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (L) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles December 29, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (R) talks with New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony (L) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles December 29, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Two of the teams looking to improve through free agency are the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks who each have a superstar to build the team around. If I were a free agent visiting both storied franchises, some of the deciding factors in my choice of where to play would be the team system, coaching staff, and players currently on the roster.

I thought an interesting question to think about would be whether a free agent would rather play with the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant or the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony. In order to look at this question, I am going to analyze Bryant and Anthony’s competitive fire, ability to make teammates better, and overall evaluation as a player.

When looking at competitive fire, the only player who comes to mind that has a stronger competitive fire than Bryant is Michael Jordan. Bryant is so competitive that he has been known to drill his teammates to the verge of tears while making them feel worthless and that they have no game whatsoever. Anthony wants to win as well, but I have not seen the same competitive fire he had as a freshman while leading the Syracuse Orange to their only NCAA title. Throughout his NBA career, Anthony has led his teams to the playoffs, but has never seemed to have the competitive fire needed to will his team to victory. Competitive fire is great, but potential free agents would have to decide if getting berated by Bryant is worth it.

While Bryant and Anthony are gunners and have a shoot first mentality, Bryant has won titles with two different complimentary players. The three titles he won with Shaquille O’Neal were more like two superstars leading the team to a title. If one of them had an off night, the other player picked up the slack. Once O’Neal moved on, Bryant wanted to prove he could win as the leading superstar without Shaq. When the Lakers won the titles in 2009 and 2010, he brought out the best in teammates Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. Anthony, on the other hand, has always been the main man on his teams dating back to the Denver Nuggets and now the Knicks. He has been unable to get supporting players to consistently be better like Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, and J.R. Smith. All of these players are now gone as the Knicks try to build the triangle offense around Anthony. The triangle has not worked with Anthony before his injury last year so players coming in would need to be strong passers and good shooters. With the right teammates, I believe Anthony could thrive in the triangle offense and make his teammates better.

In his prime, Bryant was the closest player to Air Jordan we have seen. He was a prolific scorer and above average defender. However injuries and father time have caught up with him and he can no longer take over a game and score at will. Lastly, Bryant has stated the upcoming season will be his last although I could see him staying beyond this season if the team is competitive after bringing in the right free agents. Anthony is coming off a season that ended with knee surgery. He is now 31 and entering his 13th season in the NBA where he is an eight-time all-star. Anthony is a prolific scorer who is tough to defend driving to the basket. If he doesn’t score driving to the hoop, he usually gets fouled and goes to the line where he is a career 81% free throw shooter. Anthony should be able to play at his current level for the next five years.

Conclusion: If I were a free agent, I would choose to play with Anthony due to Bryant’s impending retirement. Anthony knows he needs to win a championship to be considered one of the top players of all-time. He has the support of team president Phil Jackson who wants to bring in players who can play the triangle offense and help Anthony achieve his dream of winning a title. I also think Bryant will be extra cranky not wanting to end his career on a losing team. It will be interesting to see which free agents, if any, decide to sign with the Lakers or Knicks

And that’s as I see it!

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