Carmelo Anthony says Kobe Bryant didn’t prevent him from signing with the Lakers

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This week, much has been made of an ESPN story suggesting that Kobe Bryant’s personality has kept big-name free agents from signing with the Lakers in recent years. One of the most high-profile free-agent stars the Lakers have chased in recent years was Carmelo Anthony, who took offers from the Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks before ultimately re-signing with the Knicks for $124 million over five years.

However, Anthony told reporters on Sunday that his decision not to sign with the Lakers had nothing to do with Kobe. From ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Ohm Youngmisuk:

“Hell no. Of course not,” Anthony said. “If I thought that [playing for the Lakers] was the right situation for me from an overall perspective as far as having a team there, then I would have looked at that situation more in-depth. I just felt more comfortable staying here in New York. But as far as playing with him … I’m here now but I would always love to play with Kobe.”

Indeed, it’s hard to pin Anthony’s decision on Bryant. Signing with the Lakers never really made sense for him, and all along it seemed like he let them make their pitch more as a courtesy than out of any serious intention of going there. The two most viable contenders in the Melo sweepstakes both offered something the Lakers couldn’t. The Bulls had the best roster and the clearest path to immediate contention for a championship out of any of the teams vying for his services. The Knicks could offer him more money than anyone else, as well as a fifth year on his contract and long-term security for his family. The Lakers, coming off a disappointing year and figuring to be a lottery team again this season, could offer neither. Melo chose the money, and it’s hard to blame him for it.

Melo and Kobe have played together before. They won two gold medals together with Team USA, in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. There’s nothing to suggest they couldn’t have played together — the Lakers just didn’t offer the best fit of the options he had available.