Carmelo Anthony has had a rather interesting career trajectory. Melo was selected with the 3rd Overall selection by the Denver Nuggets way back in 2003 after leading a Syracuse team to its first National Championship as a Freshman. Carmelo was selected after Lebron James (1st Overall – Cleveland Cavaliers) and Darko Milicic (2nd Overall – Detroit Pitsons). Carmelo has never been considered a bust, he remains as one of the premier scorers in the NBA boasting a career scoring average of 25.2 points per game. Question marks are raised when one considers that Carmelo has only escaped the first round of the playoffs on 2 occasions (2009, 2013).
Carmelo ignites a love/hate relationship for the average NBA fan. It’s very easy to fall in love with the fluidity of his play, ability to score effortlessly against virtually any opponent. This ability to draw favourable eyes has culminated in 8 All-Star appearances & 6 All-NBA selections.
The biggest knock on Carmelo is his inability to transfer his individual brilliance to team wins. Interestingly, he only ranks 33rd on Basketball Reference’s Win Share Per 48 minutes Rating behind the likes of Nene and David West. But why does Carmelo struggle to put his team in winning positions?
Whether fair or not, Carmelo will always draw comparisons to LeBron James (who is his close friend) due to their connection to the 2003 NBA Draft. LeBron displayed his ability to carry an entire team following the injuries to his two Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Would Carmelo have been able to do the same? The question goes much deeper than basketball ability. Melo is undoubtedly a gifted basketball player and likely Hall of Famer but where is the explanation for his inability to lead a perennial winner?
One possible reason is his off court focus. We know that NBA players are people too and are entitled to spend their off court time however they please. Carmelo’s partner La La is a TV star and their wedding was featured on the pair’s reality tv venture. Melo is also a budding investor and has been known to readily explore business ventures that he deems worthy of his attention. In an ESPN The Magazine article, Carmelo Anthony notes that “this isn’t just about basketball. I hate just being known that way. It’s got to be bigger than that.”
Carmelo is often considered greedy or money hungry, and although he doesn’t seem to care too much about what the perception of him is, it may be unintentionally impeding his ability to lead a winning team on the court. There were rumours when Carmelo was a free agent prior to the 2014/2015 season that he had offers from the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets which would have offered him an on court improvement over the 17-65 Knicks but he chose to take more money and stay in New York City for his family and business aspirations. Such decisions can rightfully fuel the fire that claims Carmelo is not all about winning.
Carmelo throws a punch and runs away in Madison Square Garden
Without personally knowing someone, judging mentality is largely speculation. But there is proof in the pudding by combining a large sample size of characteristics. It’s difficult to equate the ability to score with the inability to consistently win for Carmelo Anthony. Whether in business or on the court, a winning mentality goes a long way. It’s a point of pride. Contentedness with mediocrity is a yellow flag for any competitive endeavour. In College, Melo was able to show that he does have the ability to be a winner. But as a Freshman under the guidance of Jim Boeheim, it is unlikely that Carmelo was the off court leader of the Orangemen. As a pro, he has struggled to build a steady group of role players that will die for him as many of his contemporaries have managed to lure. Free agents like Greg Monroe electing to sign with smaller market teams rather than the Knicks is also an indictment on the perception of Melo by his peers as a skilled scorer who potentially lacks that winning mindset.
We all know people who thrive in big pressure situations, and conversely, those that shy away when the stakes are highest. Although there is no metric in the “real world” to gage the correlation, the wise money would be on those intense winners to regularly find a way to rise to the top and will themselves and their teammates on to victory time and time again.
The Knicks are evidently in a rebuild yet again this season. With Phil Jackson still unproven as a GM who can rebuild, and Derek Fisher unproven as an NBA coach and the Knicks slugging away with a largely unproven roster, Carmelo may be over the hill in terms of sniffing that elusive championship run. Whether he cares about the distance between him and that championship is another matter though.