Last Call

carmelo_anthonyKanye West.

Admit it: you read that just now and it immediately invoked some kind of reaction.

“Genius.”

“Annoying AF.”

“Ego-maniac.”

Taylor Swift.”

I can fully understand why some people see Mr. West in a negative light. After all, we’re talking about a dude who had a track on The Life of Pablo entitled, “I Love Kanye.” However, people get all wrapped up in the current Yeezy without remembering where the dude came from.

You might not like Kanye’s music, but those who don’t could benefit from fast-forwarding to around 3:55 of the track below:

Forget the weird outbursts and recent subpar albums for a second. After listening to him talk for eight minutes about his trials and tribulations, maybe you’ve gained a better understanding for why Kanye is Kanye. For those who didn’t listen, don’t worry. I’ll sum it up.

For years, Mr. West had to listen to various industry professionals tell him that he wasn’t _______ enough. Whether you fill that blank with “talented”, “marketable” or—let’s be real—”hood”, nobody believed in him. Doors were closed. He felt like Bad Boys’ street team: he couldn’t work the locks (LOX).

Not only did he grind, make it and prove everyone wrong, he goes out of his way to remind us every time he opens his mouth. The result?

His ego annoys people to the point where they feel as though he’s overrated… so much so that now, his impact on the music industry might be underrated.

In a way, it’s kind of what’s happening to Carmelo Anthony, as he and the Knicks continually evaluate their relationship. He’s held onto the belief for years that, despite being a one-dimensional ballstopper, he can be the best player on a championship team.

He was the best offensive player I ever coached. He was also a user of people, addicted to the spotlight and very unhappy when he had to share it.

George Karl, from his book, Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection.

Over the years, ‘Melo has been a media piñata. Remember, he came into the league fresh off of putting a flawed Syracuse team on his back to win the 2003 national title. Me personally, I’ll never forget it, since I picked the Orangemen to win the title that year despite only being a three seed. And make no mistake: if Anthony’s career ended tomorrow, he’s had a great run as one of the best modern-day offensive forwards ever.

Fair or unfair, however, pundits and fans alike judge him against the success of his ’03 peers.

  • LeBron James: Arguably one of the top five players of all-time. Three chips (and counting)
  • Dwyane Wade: One of the top five two guards of all-time. Two Three chips (11 years later, STILL bitter as a Mavs’ fan)
  • Chris Bosh: Great two-way forward whose career might actually be done… or not.

When looking back on Anthony’s career, here’s the most common question: if he really is a superstar, why hasn’t he even come close to sniffing a title?

The easy answer: he’s a one-dimensional scorer who’s unwilling to defer. Not even 500 words in, blog post done, right?

If it were only that easy. Check this out:

Example A: A decidedly one-dimensional all-time great. At his peak, he was an above-average rebounder and a sub-par defender, with the latter being extremely generous.

Example B: If a reporter candidly asked them, coaches and teammates would openly admit to hating this dude. He had to win his own way and never wanted to defer. Refused to waive his no-trade clause, even if would have made his team better in the long run.

Either example could be talking about ‘Melo, right?

Example A: Dirk Nowitzki, 2011 NBA Finals MVP (!!!) and sixth all-time in scoring.

Example B: Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant

In a league where it’s supposedly difficult to win with a one-dimensional superstar or a micro-managing diva, these two debunk that notion. In Bryant’s case, he did more than debunk it: he took that notion, poured kerosene on it, lit it on fire, then tweeted, “Amnesty THAT!”

My feelings regarding Anthony have been rollercoaster-ish. In ’03, I was really excited about his potential. Then he ran his first coach—Jeff Bzdelik—out of town after his rookie year, despite a 26-game improvement from the previous season. After that, he forced his way out of Denver to land in an even worse (but perhaps more profitable) situation with New York.

For me, the tipping point was during the 2011–2012 season. Anthony got hurt, and Mike D’Antoni was about to get canned. All of the sudden, this happened:

Brief tangent: if you don’t think D’Antoni is one of the best offensive coaches of all-time after completely turning the Houston Rockets around, you’re insane. Between this season and his tenure with the Phoenix Suns, his resume is impressive.

However, D’Antoni should have never taken the Knicks or Lakers’ jobs. As effective as his free-flowing offense looked in Phoenix, Bryant and ‘Melo didn’t believe in his principles.

Anyway, the Knicks thrived with Lin in full control of the offense while Anthony was out. For me, this was Anthony’s chance to embrace change… not to defer mind you, but to embrace the principles that allowed the Knicks to maximize their potential.

Nope. ‘Melo was still ‘Melo when he returned. Unwilling to take a backseat, the Lin/Tyson Chandler/Amare Stoudemire pick n’ roll attack disappeared. It was back to ‘Melo dominating the ball. And within a few games, D’Antoni got canned.

Is that all Anthony’s fault? Hardly. Break-ups can be one-sided, but more often than not, both parties are responsible. Just like ‘Melo could have bought in, D’Antoni could have adjusted better.

That said, it comes back to track record. Like ‘Melo would ever change, right?

Which brings me back to Karl’s quote. We’re coming up on six years since Anthony left the Nuggets. Yes, Karl was short-sighted for writing that book and dissing grown ass men with broad, sweeping, somewhat cowardly generalizations about kids growing up in a single-parent household. That said, you know who probably got the most out of Anthony?

George Karl, that crazy old man.

Maybe because he was one of the only people who went toe-to-toe with Anthony over basketball philosophies instead of catering to his whims… or, at least catering less than other coaches.

Whether or not Anthony waives his no-trade clause and the Knicks decide to pull a trigger on a deal, he’s 32-years-old. Time’s running out for him to prove that he can win without changing a damn thing.

You might even say it’s his Last Call.

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