On Saturday, Carmelo Anthony attended a basketball game at Syracuse University. Although the game was memorable more because it was The Otto Porter Breakout Party, Anthony was in town to be honored by the team and school as one of its best basketball players of all-time, his number never to be worn by another Orange player.
In 2003, my cell phone had an antenna, and the Anthony-led run by Syracuse culminated in a national championship. Every game was dominated by #15, as he played his way to Final Four MVP. The numbers were especially nice, as Anthony was a 20-10 machine with dreadlocks for days. But it was the eye test that confirmed the notion that Melo would be getting paid for playing basketball the following year. He bullied smaller opponents in the post and left bigger ones in the dust. He didn’t take games off and was especially active in coach Jim Boeheim’s roaming 2-3 zone defense. But most of all, he inspired his teammates, most of whom were older, to play with him, as opposed to playing alongside of him.
Anthony established a mature identity as a young Syracuse freshman, and his legacy remains significant today. 22 double-doubles on the march to his legendary coach’s only title was enough to cement his place in the hearts of the 35,012 strong that set a record at the Carrier Dome this past weekend. Yet Carmelo Anthony spent three of his NBA millions to build a practice facility that aims to produce the next of his kind. Carmelo Anthony isn’t just a hero in Syracuse; he’s a legend. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)
Anthony’s arrival in the big leagues has been full of the kind of style that is unaccompanied by substance. The one time he has advanced past the first round was the time where many thought one of his teammates was the more valuable player. And following Miami’s chip last year, Anthony remains the most prominent member of the heralded 2003 draft class without a ring.
The basketball-unrelated nonsense is worse; it’s what makes us view him as a petulant child. There was the infamous “Stop Snitching” video clip, in which Anthony appears to promote and accept the actions taken towards those who cooperate with law enforcement. There was the collective headache he gave Colorado by forcing his way out of town. And there was the failure to make any commitment to Mike D’Antoni, eventually resulting in MDA resigning in 7 seconds or less.
This season, as Anthony’s on-court exploits continue to afford him a whisper in the conversation for the LeBron James memorial Most Valuable Player award, he still hasn’t learned to act like an adult as he’s aged in an NBA uniform. On Sunday, Melo lost his cool simply because Spencer Hawes, he of the 13.7 career Player Efficiency Rating, got into Melo’s head. No, this time it didn’t take the much-maligned trash talker in Kevin Garnett to speak about how Melo’s wife affected KG’s tastebuds. Spencer Hawes simply boxed Anthony out for a rebound, and the superstar’s response was to slap the back of Hawes’ head, an act that may be punished by fine and/or suspension.
How often do malcontents hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy? Humor my laziness in actually researching the list of NBA champions and accept my argument that they NEVER win titles. Carmelo Anthony the young freshman displayed poise on his way to NCAA history. But the older he gets, the more he resembles the kid who cries when you play with his toys. If Anthony doesn’t grow up soon, we’ll all grow old wishing he was young again.