Carmelo Anthony enraged basketball purists last week, saying that he would be happy with his accomplishments and proud to step away from basketball if he never won an NBA championship.
Entering his 13th NBA season, his sixth full season with the New York Knicks, Melo is looking to put together a healthy, productive campaign and enter the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season. But the nine-time All-Star is currently with Team USA in the Olympics, looking to bring the country its third gold medal in eight years.
Personal accolades, like becoming the all-time leading scorer in U.S. Olympic basketball history when he scored 14 points in the first quarter against Australia last week --giving him 276 points -- are personal notches on his success badge. Yet he seems to be happy with personal success, even if it doesn’t translate to team success.
“He doesn’t realise that he just gave Knicks fans a reason to give back their season tickets,” Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN’s First Take, noting that Anthony is in the midst of a $122 million deal. “Part of the reason, mainly, the reason that Knicks fans support this team is because you are here – and you make such an egregious statement like this?”
The statement to which Smith is referring to comes from an interview with ESPN.com’s Marc Stein in which Anthony harped on the possibility of capturing his third gold medal.
Unless you’re Michael Phelps, who competes in multiple swimming competitions and can capture 22 gold medals, team sports like basketball restrict the number of medals one player can earn. Then, factoring Anthony’s college success at Syracuse, and scoring prowess in the NBA, he’d be satisfied on that alone.
“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,” Anthony said. “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.”
Anthony, 32, has appeared in the NBA playoffs 10 times (seven with the Denver Nuggets and three with the Knicks) and has only reached the conference finals once, during the 2008-09 season against the Los Angeles Lakers. Meanwhile, his former 2003 NBA Draft buddies LeBron James (three), Dwyane Wade (three), and Chris Bosh (two) all have multiple championships.
Smith was infuriated by Anthony’s remarks, growing more and more irritated as he gave his opinion on the matter.
“You have given critics a reason to believe winning is not a priority for you….that you’re satisfied with gold medals when you beat up on China, or Brazil or escape against Australia with Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut leading the way,” Smith added as his voice went up multiple octaves. “THAT’S ENOUGH FOR YOU? THAT’S ENOUGH FOR YOU?”
But Smith, who has covered the NBA for nearly three decades has to understand, that is enough for Anthony or any elite-level NBA star. Sure, a ring would be the icing on Anthony’s career and solidify him in the annals of basketball history.
Are John Stockton, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing – a Smith favourite – considered failures for not having a ring on their finger? The answer is no.
Earlier today, Smith took back his harsh criticism of Anthony, saying that he spoke to him and Melo explained that his answer was taken out of context. He still intends on competing for a championship and “is starving” for one. The Knicks, having added Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee are in a position to compete this season – if healthy.
Anthony even took to Instagram to show how James helped to calm him down as he was on the verge of snapping at his critics.
Anthony had opportunities in Denver, he’s had opportunities in New York, but a championship is not just the matter of having the right team, it’s being at the right time. He still has time to win multiple titles but bashing him for being proud of personal success is not the way to assess his legacy.