Carmelo Anthony must hate living in LeBron James’ shadow.
Sounds like a hyperbolic statement and yet it is true in so many ways when we look at their respective careers and what they have meant to each other.
Carmelo was terrific high school prospect who got himself noticed and eventually landed at Syracuse university. In his freshman season, he dominated the NCAA tournament and helped Jim Boeheim earn his one and only national championship. Anthony’s scoring prowess as well as his rebounding ability made him a tough cover for just about every other player at the collegiate level.
While Carmelo was busy gathering some attention in the NCAA, a high school player in the state of Ohio was busy dominating the headlines thanks in large part to his size, strength, charisma and more so than anything; his basketball talent. LeBron James was such an impressive high school player that some of his games were actually televised before a national audience. The Akron native could do it all: score, rebound, play physical, throw it down and entertain. Even more impressive, he seemed to get it.
As much as he had been built up as a one-man show, he understood the delicate balance between being The Man and between being one of the men. Indeed, he knew when to share the spotlight with his teammates and that endeared him to many.
LeBron’s gifts as well as his potential made him an attractive package.
Forget that Melo had just led Syracuse to a national title, people could not get enough of LeBron James. And when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2003 draft lottery, it became obvious that James would remain in his home state.
But Melo would probably prove to all what a big mistake it was that the Cavs hadn’t taken him first in the 2003 NBA draft right?
Carmelo Anthony was selected third overall in the draft behind LeBron James and the immortal Darko Milicic — it gets funnier every time it gets mentioned that Darko was the #2 pick in that loaded 2003 draft — by the Denver Nuggets and helped the team make the postseason with a 43-39 record thanks to his 21 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game on 42.6 percent field goal shooting.
James on the other hand quickly became the best player on a Cavaliers team that went 35-47 and missed the postseason. He boasted impressive averages of 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game on 41.7 percent field goal shooting.
Although the Cavs missed the postseason, James was presented with the 2003-04 Rookie of the Year award because he had exceeded all the expectations that had been placed before him. Never before had a high school player generated such hype, and many figured that he would not be able to live up to that very same hype, especially while playing the point guard position in his rookie season.
Anthony’s Nuggets made the playoffs in his rookie and sophomore seasons while James’ Cavaliers were absent from the dance during the same timeframe. But the talks still revolved around LeBron’s all around brilliance with the basketball. By his second season, he was already one of the best players in the league given his ability to score the ball efficiently, be a presence on the boards and create great looks for teammates.
Melo on the other hand was a very good scorer, but he took a hit because his teams not only failed in the opening round of the playoffs in successive seasons, but he struggled both postseason appearances.
But then things became interesting in the spring of 2006 as fans would finally get the chance to watch both forwards compete in the playoffs in opposite conferences.
Anthony struggled again in the postseason, while James took his game to new heights with an impressive all round series domination of the Washington Wizards in the first round.
The second round saw the Cavs hang in a tough series against the Detroit Pistons before finally being eliminated in the seventh game. Despite the loss at the hand of the Pistons, one thing became abundantly clear: the King had arrived.
Since that 2006 postseason run, James has made two trips to the NBA Finals, three trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, won two MVP awards and gave us the 48-point Special against the Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals.
On the other hand, Carmelo Anthony has been out of the first round once, leading the Denver Nuggets to the 2009 Western Conference Finals where they fell in six games at the hand of the Los Angeles Lakers in a closer series than most remember. When Melo obtained an opportunity to get an upper hand against James — the Cavs were favored to make the Finals that year but were eliminated by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals that postseason — despite being on the opposite coast, his team came close, but ultimately could not seal the deal.
Both players have since changed teams, with Anthony winding up in New York — the city that the Chosen One shunned — while LeBron famously took his talents to South Beach.
New York would change everything for the Syracuse product. Or so everyone thought.
The idea was that Carmelo’s offensive repertoire would get much more exposure and attention in New York; where fans would get a chance to watch all of his impressive scoring outbursts while he played in the most famous arena in the world.
And yet, for all of the change that Carmelo went through; things ultimately remained the same. He performed well enough in the 2011 playoffs for people to take notice, but his team was swept in the opening around of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics while James led his team to a Finals appearance.
This season, Melo struggled for large parts of the season but then hijacked the month of April and reminded everyone that he may well in fact be the best pure scorer in the league given all of his gifts. The basketball world had begun to revolve around Anthony in a way that was somewhat reminiscent of his college days.
Making matters even more interesting, Anthony would get the opportunity to take on LeBron head-to-head in the playoffs for the first time in his career and possibly escape the huge shadow cast by the Heat superstar.
And then, LeBron happened.
In the first game of the playoffs, the Miami Heat destroyed the New York Knicks, winning by 33 points as Melo struggled from the floor, converting only 3-of-15 shots on his way to 11 points while James scored 32 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field. The former Cavalier spent most of the contest defending the Syracuse product and forcing him into some tough shots, which resulted in his poor shooting display.
Game 2 was a different story as Anthony was back to his usual self. He beat defenders — he spent most of the night matched up against Shane Battier and LeBron James — with a plethora of exquisite moves that could have made a scoring assassin like Kobe Bryant jealous. Melo got by opponents with jab steps, his first step, crossovers, midrange jump shots after sizing up his defenders, post ups and baskets right at the rim.
Carmelo scored 30 points on 12-for-26 shooting from the field and also collected nine rebounds in what was a spectacular offensive performance.
His defense mind you left much to be desired — the truth is this could be said about most players attempting to defend LeBron James — as the two-time league MVP had a terrific all around game with 19 points, seven rebounds and nine assists on 8-for-18 field goal shooting. New York often had to send double-teams at James to limit his scoring opportunities and he made them pay by finding open teammates.
On a night in which Melo submitted a terrific performance, he was outshined by his rival once again, as the Heat defeated the Knicks by 10 points.
The Knicks are currently down 2-0 in the best of seven series against the Heat; and should they get eliminated by Miami, Anthony will have failed to advance to the second round for the eighth time out of nine trips.
It just seems as though LeBron has been better at every turn and that he has garnered more attention than Melo. That spot in #6’s shadow might be quite bothersome…
But Carmelo has at least two games in New York to possibly get himself out of there.
Ball is in Melo’s court now.
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Pou[email protected].