In today’s society, we like new, innovative, and young. Qualities that aren’t shared by Carmelo Anthony. Despite being a future Hall of Famer, Anthony has seemed to drift off into the shadows as a new hero comes to New York – Kristaps Porzingis. Thus reshaping New York’s identity to one not known as the Carmelo Anthony show. An identity that Melo isn’t so familiar with. But Melo had his chance, he couldn’t win. Part of that is because he didn’t consistently have good enough pieces around him, and part of that is because Melo never made any sacrifices for the better of the team. And as we start to judge the resumes of those trying to become a part of the NBA’s Hall of Fame hierarchy, no rings and a 16-36 playoff record – the worst in NBA history, makes it extremely difficult to expect the Basketball God’s will respect your legacy. But they should.
The destination to the NBA Finals has been insurmountable for stars across the league, and it’s largely due to one man, LeBron James. James has single-handedly dominated the Eastern Conference for the past five years, and really has been in title contention for the past 10. And Carmelo Anthony is not the only star that has been victimized by one of the greatest players ever. Ask Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone, and also former Knick, Patrick Ewing. These players have been plagued with the idea that their legacy will never be complete – they’re ringless. And it’s all because they were simply playing basketball at the worst possible time.
Thanks to his friend down in Cleveland, Anthony may never win a ring, unless the unthinkable happens. (Kyrie allows his Kobe DNA to absorb him, making him impossible to play with and leading LeBron to leave once again, LeBron finally becomes susceptible to the injury bug at some point in the playoffs, LeBron retires, LeBron quits to play baseball….wait, we’ve already seen that. Anyway, it’s likely that those scenarios will not happen, and we really can’t assume they will).
“I do look at my peers and say, ‘Damn, what am I doing wrong,’” Anthony told reporters, comparing his success to his other Brotherhood members: Chris Paul in LA, Dwayne Wade and his past in Miami, and obviously, LeBron.
For Anthony, these comparisons among his friends are inevitable, and he is the low man on the totem pole. LeBron is arguably the greatest player ever, Chris Paul is one of the most dynamic point guards of our generation, and Dwayne Wade is a three-time champion. All three are undisputed Hall of Famers. Now Melo is likely to go down in the Hall of Fame as well, but just how does he stack up against his “Brothers” and the rest of the rising NBA stars.
You see, the NBA’s middle class is growing rapidly, and yesterday’s mainstream stars are going out of style. But Carmelo knows that, and he is reminded of that every night when he takes the court with Porzingis. BUT, Melo does deserve the proper appreciation; he is a nine-time All-Star, scoring champion, member of the 20,000-point club, three-time Olympic gold medalist, USA’s Olympic all-time leading scorer, and also a NCAA champion for Jim Boeheim in college.
Individually, Anthony really doesn’t have much to prove, and it looks like he won’t have the opportunity to change the trajectory of his career to match the success of the rest of “The Brotherhood.” But that’s ok. Not everybody can have the success that Wade, Paul and James have had. Like I said, they’re first-ballot Hall of Famers. Carmelo Anthony has his own story to tell, his own legacy.
Anthony’s career doesn’t pop off the shelves like some of his NBA contemporaries. He doesn’t have the titles, he isn’t close to averaging a triple double, he doesn’t have a unique skillset or body type that makes him interesting, but he’s special. And even at the age of 32, Melo is still one of 12 or so guys that I would trust taking a final shot. But it seems that Melo’s story is almost too similar to what Knicks fans have already read. He has become a familiar archetype: an extremely talented player that couldn’t win the hardware in New York – like Patrick Ewing or Bernard King. He has been shining individually for over 10 years in the league; accepting numerous awards and accolades as he continues to be one of the league’s high volume catalysts. But like Ewing and King, the lack of winning has been a crucial dagger to the hearts of Knicks fans, and really all NBA fans who have watched Melo over the years. Maybe Melo believed he could win in New York. Maybe he believed that going to a big market would ultimately bring in other stars. And while other franchises moved pieces together to win championships, Melo sat and watched New York acquire rusted antiques and flashy frauds. Big names that should just be enough to slide into the playoffs. But Anthony’s ambition of winning has been put on hold ever since he arrived in New York. His loyalty has been admirable, but overlooked. Loyalty that was not shared by Kevin Durant nor LeBron James. While James and Durant went ring chasing, Anthony stayed put. And I am not saying that Durant and James’ decisions were wrong, but that trying to get your team out of a hole should be respected.
However, even with Anthony’s pursuit to get New York deep into the playoffs, Melo has never been a winner. He has never liked doing the small things for the best of the team, and that’s killed him. But this year we have seen a new trend. This year Anthony is averaging more assists than he ever has, his usage is at a career low, he’s defending with respectable effort, and he’s becoming a mentor for the young players. More specifically, Porzingis.
We know Carmelo Anthony can be great. We all saw him drop 28.8 points a game in the 2013 playoffs against KG and Paul Pierce’s Celtics and a very talented Pacers team. We have seen his ability to light up a scoreboard several times. But the issue is, making the playoffs, and really, entering the playoffs with momentum and confidence. It should be noted that Melo has only surpassed the first round twice in his career. But again, the sacrifices he has shown this year is a side that we have never seen, a side that is cause for optimism in New York. And really, as long as they don’t get Cleveland or Toronto in the first round, the Eastern Conference is up for grabs. While the Knicks have not played to what they are capable of, their preseason expectations were too high. But Carmelo’s quest to greatness should not be shadowed by his time in New York. And while I don’t agree whatsoever that Olympic gold medals are equivalent to NBA championships, Carmelo Anthony has been incredible at the Olympic stage. This summer we got to see a side of Anthony that we rarely see, revalidating Melo’s scoring prowess. And as many stars decided to sit out, Melo took the opportunity to lead this summer’s USA squad. Wow was he good. And when USA was on the verge of losing their first game in a decade, Anthony saved our nation with a heroic performance by scoring 31 points (9-15 from 3) to defeat the Aussies. By the end of the game, Anthony was officially the USA’s all-time leading scorer and the only mens player to win three gold medals.
Now when submitting Anthony’s resumes to the Basketball Gods, the fact that he is the most successful US Men’s Basketball player of all-time is probably enough to get him into the Hall of Fame by itself. But Melo was so much more than a successful Olympian. He was a star that could score at will, but overshadowed by his one kryptonite – winning. And while his lack of winning is abysmal, and certainly not acceptable, Carmelo Anthony’s individual greatness should not be overlooked. And while basketball fans across the world watch a newly shaped Knicks team, remember who scored 62 points at MSG – an all-time record. Remember who has given you 20+ ppg for the last five and a half years. Remember who has sacrificed his reputation by staying in New York. Remember your star with the proper respect.
Carmelo Anthony created a legacy for himself. A legacy that cannot be duplicated by many NBA players today. A legacy of failure and historic success. And as Melo tries to stack his resume against overwhelming odds, let’s not forget one of our country’s most prolific scorers before the rising stars take the league by storm.
Written by: Carter Donahue @Carterdonahue_