Can Carmelo Anthony be the best player on an NBA champion?
If you’re an NBA fan, you’ve undoubtedly had some version of that argument before. The New York Knicks forward is one of the most talented scorers in the game; at the same time, it’s unclear how much better he makes his teammates.
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More importantly, the days when Melo could answer that question in the affirmative are probably behind us. He’s entering his 14th season in the NBA next year, and he’s already in the top 100 for minutes played in basketball history. At this point, Anthony is closer to retirement than his prime.
And should he eventually call it quits without a title, Melo would be at peace — so long as Team USA holds up its end of the bargain in Rio and wraps up his third gold medal.
Melo’s perspective is admirable, on some level. Having that sense of perspective and valuing one’s time on the Olympic team is a noble way of looking at the world. And he’s not necessarily alone. Anthony Davis once said that he’d rather win a gold medal than an NBA title, and Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said this week that a title and a gold medal are pretty much the same thing.
You know who probably disagrees, though? Knicks fans! Melo was supposed to be the one who restored the Big Apple to its rightful place atop the basketball world. The Knicks mortgaged their future to trade for Anthony in 2011, and they’ve had little to show for that move since.
And therein lies the rub. There’s still a chance that Anthony wins a title before he’s all said and done, sure. As he turns the corner into the last stretch of his career, he can easily slide into a role as a spot-up shooter and a secondary offensive creator. If he is lucky enough to play for a championship contender in the coming years, though, it probably won’t be the Knicks.
As amazing as Kristaps Porzingis is, New York is going to need a few more years — and a few more pieces — to become one of the elite teams in the NBA. By that time, Melo will be on his way out, content to embrace his medals, even if he doesn’t have a ring.