Team-killer. Selfish. Defensive liability. All have been used to describe Carmelo Anthony at one point or another during his 13-year NBA career. NBA champion has never been a title earned by New York’s superstar. Melo doesn’t seem too fazed by that, however.
From ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
In an interview with ESPN at the Rio Olympics, Anthony insisted that the prospect of becoming the first U.S. male to win three gold medals in basketball more than eases the sting of an NBA playoff history that, to date, includes only one trip to the conference finals and just two trips total beyond the first round.
“Most athletes don’t have an opportunity to say that they won a gold medal, better yet three gold medals,” Anthony said. “I would be very happy walking away from the game knowing that I’ve given the game everything I have, knowing I played on a high level at every level: high school, college, won [a championship at Syracuse] in college and possibly three gold medals.
“I can look back on it when my career is over — if I don’t have an NBA championship ring — and say I had a great career.”
While it’s certainly respectable — and refreshing — that an NBA player recognizes the meaning behind earning Olympic gold, Melo’s words don’t help dispel any of the star’s most often-heard criticisms. Knicks fans can’t be too pleased that the playoff hopes of a city hungry for a title seem to be carried by a man who’s already full.
Sean Deveney of the Sporting News had this to add from Carmelo’s Rio interview:
“I don’t know why people think that a gold medal is any different than winning an NBA championship. At the end of the day, you’re winning something and I think this is the pinnacle of anything you could want, to win a gold medal, be the world — this is really the world championship, to the rest of the world.” […]
“I still have time in the NBA to make [a championship run] happen,” Anthony said. “But for me to be out there and have a chance to win three gold medals, I have proven I can win at every level, high school, college — unfortunately not yet in the NBA as far as winning a championship — but three gold medals playing at the highest level of basketball. At the end, in 10 years, I’ll be satisfied with that.”
What’s ironic is that Melo is actually right: winning an Olympic gold medal is the pinnacle of what a player can achieve in basketball. Earning the opportunity to represent your country on the biggest international stage is the greatest honor an athlete can receive. However, Anthony placed himself between a rock and a hard place by voicing his ability to be content without an NBA championship. He didn’t appease any of the critics who question his desire to bring New York the ring –and the basketball relevancy–it so desperately craves. He didn’t take the opportunity to provide the leadership the Knicks’ management and fan base expect of him in guiding the team’s young and talented roster to a potential title. Rather, Carmelo essentially admitted that a title isn’t all that important to him.
Scott Van Pelt of ESPN ran a segment on his nightly show last week praising Melo for his honesty. It’s one thing to be honest. It’s another to admit too much. Whether Carmelo truly believes he’ll be able to reflect on his career and be satisfied without winning a title, he never should have admitted it to an organization and a fan base that want nothing more than to raise another banner in the Garden–and are desperate to do so immediately. Phil Jackson certainly can’t be too happy knowing that his most important player doesn’t seem to be aligned with the team’s win-now mentality. Melo’s words will linger with the relentless New York media until he brings a ring to the Big Apple. With a young team and LeBron James’ Cavaliers standing in the way, Anthony may never get the chance to absolve them.