Tuesday , Mar , 15 , 2005 Oly Sandor

Can We Call Kobe Bryant and Stephon Marbury Great?

Great players are supposed to make their teammates better. Magic Johnson gave Kurt Rambis a career. Robert Parish was an average center until he started playing with Larry Bird. Derek Fisher should be paying Shaq royalties after signing a 38 million dollar contract with Golden State in the summer.

Can We Call Kobe Bryant and Stephon Marbury Great?Things have changed in today’s NBA. Kobe Bryant and Stephon Marbury are two of the biggest names in basketball. However, these guys don’t care about their teammates. They only look out for themselves.

Kobe Bryant’s ego has ruined the Los Angeles Lakers. Last July, Bryant used his status as an unrestricted free agent to force the Lakers into trading Shaquille O’Neal and firing coach Phil Jackson. The Bryant, O’Neal and Jackson combination had won three championships together, but it wasn’t enough. Kobe wanted to win on his own terms.

The Lakers accommodated Bryant by shipping Shaq to Miami in exchange for Caron Butler, Briant Grant and Lamar Odom. Grant was a salary-cap throw-in; Los Angeles made the trade because they liked Butler and Odom’s athleticism. The plan backfired. The new-look Lakers have been a bust and it’s Bryant’s fault. He hogs the ball, forces up a ton of bad shots and makes it impossible for Butler, Odom or any other teammates to get involved in the offence.

Bryant has also become a public relations nightmare. He didn’t answer reporters’ questions about his role in breaking up the Lakers’ dynasty. In November, the all-star went on ESPN radio and accused Karl Malone of hitting on his wife. Of course, Bryant’s an expert on extramarital affairs. A year earlier, he admitted to cheating on his spouse with a nineteen-year old Denver girl who sued him for rape.

The Lakers probably wish they’d kept O’Neal and explored a sign and trade option for Bryant, which would have brought back some young talent. Memphis’ GM Jerry West was quite interested in bringing the all-star guard out to Tennessee. How does Shaq with Pau Gasol, Shane Battier and Mike Miller sound? O’Neal can also attract free agents, while big names won’t join Bryant in LA because he doesn’t share the ball.

Stephon Marbury is a fantastic talent, but like Bryant he destroys teams. In Minnesota, he wouldn’t share the spotlight with Kevin Garnett and forced a trade to New Jersey. The Nets then got tired of Marbury’s ball hogging antics and dealt him out to Phoenix for Jason Kidd .The Nets became contenders with J-Kidd; Marbury and the Suns struggled.

Marbury is now with the Knicks. This situation hasn’t worked for a couple of reasons. First, New York lacks chemistry. Marbury and Jamal Crawford haven’t clicked in the backcourt; Kurt Thomas doesn’t get enough touches. Then there’s Tim Thomas. The small forward has been so inconsistent that Knick fans were actually missing Keith Van Horn. Second, Marbury is too close to New York’s GM Isiah Thomas. Their cozy relationship has bothered some of the other players and led to Kurt Thomas challenging the Brooklyn point guard to a fight. Marbury must become a better teammate if the Knicks are going to start competing in the Eastern Conference.

Kobe Bryant and Stephon Marbury may be great individual talents, but they aren’t great players. The NBA’s best make their teammates better.

By Oly Sandor. Oly’s a basketball analyst and a free-lance journalist based out of Vancouver Canada. Even after watching the Vancouver Grizzlies draft, start and re-sign Bryant Reeves, Oly’s passion for basketball just couldn’t be denied. He spends most of his days, watching, writing, or coaching the game he loves. Hit him up with an e-mail at OlySandorNBAGuru@yahoo.com