Kobe's L.A. story could serve as lesson in Melo drama

Lakers superstar stayed put after summer media circus

It was summer 2007 and the superstar was out the door.

Or so everyone thought.

From the hair salons in Beverly Hills to the skyscrapers in Manhattan, the nation was abuzz with the news that Kobe Bryant was disenchanted with the way things were going in Los Angeles and had played his final game in a Lakers uniform.

Bryant, of course, was a primary culprit in the media storm as he demanded, then retracted, then hedged on his desire to be traded.

Among those in the middle of the coverage was ESPN reporter Ric Bucher, who said Bryant told him he would demand a trade if the Lakers did not bring back former general manager Jerry West.

West didn’t return to the Lakers, but Bryant ultimately did stay in Los Angeles, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy has taken up residence in Los Angeles for the past two seasons.

Three years later, Bucher the most vocal member of a quick-to-judge media that already has sent another superstar – Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony – packing based on circumstantial evidence that includes real-estate listings, reality shows and ubiquitous unnamed sources.

To quote Lakers fan Jack Nicholson talking to Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men: “Phone calls and foot lockers? Please tell me you have something more, Lieutenant.”

Unlike Bryant, Anthony has never said publicly that he wants to be traded, but his own words are being used against him.

Asked last week about the three-year, $65 million contract extension that’s on the table, Anthony replied: “I’m just taking my time with it. Obviously everybody knows that I’m loyal to the Denver community and to the Denver Nuggets. I’ve shown that over my seven-year stint here. I don’t think nobody can question that. But at this point in time, I’ve got to do what’s best for me and my family. If it’s taking my time, figuring out if I want to take that extension or not, then that’s what I’ve got to do.”

Not once did Anthony say he wants out of Denver, but the phrase “I’ve got to do what’s best for me and my family” has been interpreted as bad news for the Nuggets.

Seeking financial security in 2006, Anthony signed a five-year extension that included an early termination option (ETO) after four years. His 2003 draftmates LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all signed five-year extensions with ETOs after just three years.

Bosh, James and Wade are now teammates in Miami, and their free-agent coup is a contributing factor to all the speculation surrounding Anthony.

There are no guarantees in sports. Brett Favre won’t retire a Packer. Michael Jordan finished his career with the Wizards. Wayne Gretzky ended his career with the New York Rangers.

But Carmelo is not Favre, Gretzky, Jordan. Nor is he LeBron, D-Wade or Chris Bosh. No matter his ultimate decision, Melo is his own man. And he has earned the right to be taken at his word, unnamed sources be darned.

With all the rumors, speculation and conjecture being promoted as fact, it’s peculiar that the media have generally ignored Anthony’s tweet in the wake of ESPN’s report that he already has made up his mind that he wants out of Denver.

“Funny how people come up with there (sic) own analysis of a situation,” he wrote. “I tell you boy ….. Unbelievable.”

Longtime Denver Post columnist and ESPN personality Woody Paige served as a voice of reason this week when he urged Nuggets fans to see how things play out before trying to run Anthony out of town.

“Despite what you heard and read, or what they believe in New York or New Jersey, Anthony has not decided what to do,” Paige wrote, “and the Kroenkes haven't decided what to do.”

Just as it’s naïve to blindly believe reports citing anonymous sources, it would be naïve to think that both Anthony and the Nuggets would blindly make a long-term commitment without feeling comfortable.

But until the speculation is validated with actual facts, maybe we should all just take a cue from Melo.

“To be honest with you, I’ve just been going with my schedule, going with the flow,” he said. “As far as all that other talk, I’m not even thinking about it right now.”

Contact Aaron Lopez at alopez@pepsicenter.com

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