From one perspective Anthony is a prolific scorer. Evidence has been on display the last two weeks as the American basketball team competed in the Olympics. His is tall enough to score in the post and on offensive rebounds, quick enough to drive, and has enough shooting range to make 3-pointers. As a scorer there are few things he cannot do. And because of this he is almost certain to be labeled as someone who couldn’t win. Why?
Because of timing.
30 years ago Carmelo Anthony would be on his way to the Hall of Fame. Less teams means more quality players on each team. So an scoring juggernaut like Anthony would have had a teammate whose job it was to distribute the ball, a different teammate to play defense and rebound, a different teammate to share the bulk of the scoring load. With expansion this is no longer possible. Now it is necessary for one person to fill multiple roles for a team to enter the upper echelon of teams in the NBA. The Knicks look for Anthony to score and distribute. But distributing is not a skill set he is strong in.
Another way to put this is that one dimensional players used to be held in high esteem, but there are no longer. 30 years ago someone like James Worthy could basically score and let all other aspects of the game be damned and because the rest of his team was so strong, Worthy won championships and is in the Hall of Fame, and was named one of the 50 greatest players of the NBA’s first 50 years. In contrast the 1996 all star game featured Glen Rice and Mitch Richmond, two prolific scorers who contributed to winning basketball teams even if they weren’t the main scorer on a championship team (neither was Worthy), and neither is thought as especially great player historically. The landscape has changed such that to be one dimensional you have to set records to maintain a reputation as a good player that can contribute to a winning team – Dennis Rodman, Reggie Miller.
Of course the embodiment of this new landscape is Lebron James and it doesn’t help Anthony that they entered the league the same year. Coach of the American Olympic basketball team has said that James can play all 5 positions well and has an off the charts basketball IQ. James is the epitome of the multifaceted player we value in today’s NBA while Anthony is single-minded. I will choose to celebrate him for what he is (an excellent scorer) instead of disparaging him for what he is not (one of the best players the NBA will ever see).
As a native New Yorker and a fan of the Knicks I’m not sure that the team will win a championship with Anthony as their best player. But I am sure that he will do what he does best, and the reason he was acquired: score points. And I’ll appreciate him for it. It’s Anthony’s job to continue to work to improve parts of his game that are lacking; but to ask him to become Larry Bird (a great passing forward who was also a prolific scorer) is unrealistic. Instead it is up to the organization to find some players to compliment him.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.