Dear Carmelo Anthony,
Let’s start out with the easy stuff. Congratulations on another gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. You impressed us with your usual array of offensive weapons, specifically the hot 3-point shooting. At some points, it really seemed like you flicked the ball off your fingers and it would still go in. You seem to thrive in international play, impressing the world in the 2006 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics as well.
Those of us who followed your career since your freshman year in Syracuse wanted you to mature into that Carmelo.
We begged for one of the top pics in the 2003 draft, back when you declared on The Best Damn Sports Show … that you preferred the Knicks. No, you weren’t picked by the dysfunctional Knicks then, but we knew it was just a matter of time (and free agency) before you went from the Nuggets to the Knicks.
Yet, when you did, it didn’t feel exactly right. The trade was messy. Your relationship with Amare was messy. Your relationship with Jeremy Lin was messy. Actually, it felt like you had a weird adjustment with just about everyone in the organization. You looked right in the orange and blue uni, but you almost felt like an island unto yourself, with sparks of brilliance, but not enough to get the Knicks any notoriety.
That’s the thing with the Olympics too: we expected you to get better after coming back. Way better. Like LeBron did at his defense. Like Dwyane Wade did in his tenacity. Like all the other major stars did from the 2008 USA roster did.As a matter of fact, Kevin Durant did after international play,
I know you were battling injuries this season, and I know that the Knicks haven’t had a steady roster for the last four years (and still have players to move before the trading deadline), but we need something from you that we’ve lacked since #33 was traded to the Sonics: leadership.
I don’t mean the leadership in scoring, taking the most shots, or most endorsement deals. I don’t mean siding with management against a player you don’t perceive wants to stay with the Knicks. I mean improving on both sides of the court. Some might try to convince me (and other Knick fans) that you’re not a natural leader, so you need a coach who can play to your strengths, but I have yet to see one championship-winning team where the best player on the floor didn’t upgrade on their strengths and weaknesses.
Shaquille O’Neal made free throws down the stretch. Kobe Bryant passed the ball. Magic Johnson played out of position. Michael Jordan developed an outside touch. Even guys who people considered complete at their positions (like Hakeem Olajuwon and Isiah Thomas, for instance) played out of position when the game mattered. Even Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley, who never won a championship, pushed their games to the point where everyone excuses their ringless exploits with “It was Michael Jordan, after all,” not “Well, if they had worked on this part of their game, they would have …”
Carmelo, you’ve made some of the most thrilling plays in all of New York last year. You have these moments of brilliance that keep Knicks fans hoping. You have the coach you like with the players you wanted back. The Knicks now have to get through The Heat, Thunder, Lakers, and a bunch of other teams that could sneak up on the Knicks with their additions. Yet, there is no other major team sport where the efforts of one individual matter more than basketball per play.
Now, you’re the leader. Step up to it. We’ve been waiting.