Carmelo Anthony Isn’t Being Treated Fairly
Carmelo Anthony’s name has been in the headlines plenty as of late, as Phil Jackson and the Knicks front office have made it abundantly clear that they would like to part ways with their superstar.
Whenever a star player sees his name batted around in trade rumors there are the inevitable articles that size up the player and what type of package would make for a fair return. Within these articles, the writer will summarize the star player as best as he/she can with a serious of three to four adjectives and a few stats. It’s a very surface-level approach, but it is the accepted norm for the time being.
What’s disappointing about the articles that have been written about Anthony in the past week or so is the similar vibe each article takes. Look over any of the “Carmelo Anthony trade possibilities” articles you read in the last week and you are almost guaranteed to see the words selfish used when describing his playing style. If selfish isn’t used, I can promise you there are numerous pot shots at Anthony’s lack of defense, or even worse, a supposed lack of hustle.
These are sentiments that have dogged Anthony his entire career, and they are not fair.
The most reasonable, while still exaggerated, fault of Anthony’s is his defense. Sure, Anthony has never been an outstanding defender, but how many players with Anthony’s pure offensive talent are true defensive stoppers?
I’m glad you asked. Here’s a complete list of players who have averaged 20.0 or more points per game in each of their first 14 seasons: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal. And Carmelo Anthony. That list includes probably the three greatest players of all time, and the most dominant center in NBA history outside of Wilt Chamberlain. Anthony is an all-time offensive talent. MJ and LeBron had strong defensive reputations for large parts of their careers, but Kareem and Shaq were never thought of as defensive wizards. Plus both men were Goliaths who couldn’t help but protect the rim to a certain extent.
Don’t get me wrong, Anthony is definitely not a great defender. He gets lost a lot on defense and isn’t the best communicator. You know who else wasn’t great on defense in his career? Dirk Nowitzki. Allen Iverson. Larry Bird and Bernard King. All these offensive wizards struggled as much as Anthony on the other side of the ball, but their defensive deficiencies weren’t discussed ad nauseam as happens when debating the merits of Anthony as a basketball player.
The other two complaints (lack of hustle and selfishness) are far less based in reality and far more insidious.
As a lifelong Knicks fan, whenever the “lack of hustle” complaint comes up in regards to Anthony I simply chuckle, realize the person hasn’t watched very much Knicks basketball, and think of the scene with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane:
“You tell your dad to drag the entire Knicks franchise up and down the court for the better part of seven seasons.” Anthony doesn’t play like Patrick Beverly. I’m sorry. You know who else wouldn’t play like Patrick Beverly if he was relied upon for 20+ points a night while simultaneously acting as the face of the franchise? Patrick Beverly.
Like any good Knicks fan, my fanhood involves a lot of complaining and self-loathing. You know what I have never complained about once? Anthony’s dedication to the Knicks. He has given his heart to the city, despite the jagweeds in the stands who feel as though they can boo Anthony and call him overrated. Despite these fans, there are far more Knicks fans (true Knicks fans) who love Anthony, and understand just how much he has given to the franchise.
Anthony’s supposed selfishness falls into this category as well. Only once in his Knicks career has Anthony actually acted out of even slight selfishness. It was the handling of Linsanity in 2012, when Jeremy Lin became a global sensation and stole a bit of Anthony’s shine. Anthony clearly didn’t enjoy this and may have had a role in the Knicks not resigning Lin. This is far from enough to ding Anthony as a selfish person. No star athlete is truly able to be fully adjusted. Look at the pettiness of LeBron James in subtweeting his entire team and franchise once a season. Or how about the hubris of Peyton Manning in trashing Dr. Jamie Naughright in his autobiography? It was the only way in which a story which Manning is very, very lucky didn’t become a bigger deal was able to come back into the spotlight, and he idiotically brought it back to the forefront. Even Tom Brady has his flaws:
For some reason, we are determined to focus on the minor flaws of Anthony seemingly more than any other athlete. We are bound and determined to pay extra attention to his lack of defense instead of his mind-melting offensive stats. We just have to mention how selfish he is instead of noting that he averaged a career-high in assists last season. We hop on our high horse and yell out that when the ball makes it to Anthony within the Knicks offense it tends to get mighty sticky, instead of looking at how, whenever he has played with some actually talented teammates at the Olympics, he has never looked better.
Is it because he has never made it to an NBA Finals? Is it because of the bright lights of New York? Is it because he forced his way out of Denver? I’ve never quite been able to figure it out.
Carmelo Anthony may well be traded away from New York in the upcoming weeks. There will be a lot more talk about Anthony’s flaws whenever that move is made, and all that talk will treat Anthony in the unfair manner that has dogged him his entire career.
As a Knicks fan who has watched a hell of a lot of Anthony over the past seven years, I truly hope Anthony the best wherever he lands. I hope he goes to the Clippers and wins a title. Most of all though, I hope whatever he is able to achieve in the latter stages of his career allows him to shake off the narratives that have surrounded and harassed Anthony throughout his career. He’s a great player, and a great man, and he deserves a lot better.