Despite signing a five-year, $124 million contract in basketball’s biggest media market and being publicly courted in free agency by several marquee teams, the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony still feels he doesn’t get his due. According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, Anthony said that he’s “the most underrated superstar” in the NBA.
This is close to delusional.
Not only do teams and front office executives believe Anthony is worthy of a veteran’s maximum deal, but he’s one of the most popular players in the league, too. His jersey was the sixth-most sold of all players in 2013-2014, and only the fan bases of Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose are more fervent than ‘Melo’s legion of followers.
Anthony is a consensus top-15 player in the world at the very worst, and many smart basketball people of all kinds consider him the league’s most talented individual scorer. By most any subjective and objective measure, he’s earned his cemented standing as a franchise player. There’s one that’s missing, though, and it’s likely the failure from which Carmelo’s insecurity arises: Anthony simply hasn’t enjoyed the team-wide success of his superstar peers.
Detractors point to his lack of two-way worth and propensity for ball-stopping as means behind his relative failures. Proponents argue that his supporting casts have never been as strong as those of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Bryant, and the like. There’s clear merit to both lines of thinking – neither is black-and-white right or wrong.
But the fact is that the league’s several best players – a group in which Anthony thinks he belongs, obviously – have at one time elevated their teams to heights that bely collective talent levels. Think of James’ first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Paul’s time with the New Orleans Hornets, or Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010; Anthony hasn’t consistently willed his Denver Nuggets or New York Knicks squads to winning the way that esteemed trio did or continues to do for their teams.
And even if you maintain that Durant and Bryant have only enjoyed more regular season and playoff success due to the presence of superior teammates, you can’t deny that Carmelo’s all-around development has never approached that of KD and Kobe’s. Durant’s recent maturation into a supremely effective playmaker and impactful defender are the types of strides that Anthony – even as his efficiency continues to rise – hasn’t yet made. Considering his age with respect to Durant’s, too, that’s a black mark for many when they consider the league’s elite of elite, and rightfully so.
Carmelo is one of the several most valuable offensive players in basketball, and Phil Jackson believes the Triangle Offense will help him become even better on that end. But it needs to be more than scoring, and it certainly needs to be more than offense in general. If Anthony can manage those improvements and clearly establish himself as a top- six or seven player, his “most underrated superstar” notion will actually hold some weight – certainly more than it does today.
Do you agree with Carmelo?
Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.