If the New York Knicks end up losing its series against the Indiana Pacers, the harm done to Carmelo Anthony’s legacy could be irreversible – still. And that’s even after his team outlasted the Boston Celtics.
“He’s Dominique Wilkins,” a dear friend texted me recently. My friend might be right. Anthony, throughout his career, has been very good — not great.
In that regard, Wilkins is Anthony’s precursor. Both players could have busts on the Mount Rushmore of the Very Good, next to Clyde Drexler and Alex English. Their fates are similar: virtuosic scorers eclipsed by more transcendent athletes in their sport, guys who’ve won championships.
For Wilkins, it was Michael Jordan. For Anthony, two guys come to mind: Kobe Bryant, due to his five championship rings, and LeBron James, a basketball hyphenate, who has one championship and could be on his way to another with the Miami Heat.
They are strikingly similar in stature and skill: 6-8 small forwards who are master scorers.
People forget that Wilkins is the 11th all-time leading scorer in NBA history. And if they were born in the 1990’s, they would likely have no memory of his peak years. He is, when compared to Jordan, a footnote – renowned to sport’s insiders but obscure to most of the general public.
Anthony can only blame himself if he finds that his legacy has diminished like Wilkins. Critics – fairly or unfairly – will reference past events that have sabotaged him.
Exhibit A: Fresh off of his first Olympic appearance in 2004, Anthony appeared in a video produced by a reputed Baltimore drug kingpin. The title of the underground flick was called “Stop Snitching.” “The DVD’s cover had photocopied images of dead shooting victims. And while Anthony doesn’t say a word in the video, his appearance was construed as a tacit endorsement of gangster activity.
Exhibit B: Anthony, then a member of the Denver Nuggets, incited a melee against the Knicks in 2006. He was suspended for 15 games for punching an opposing guard in the face before retreating.
Exhibit C: No NBA player has lost as much as Anthony in the playoffs over the last 20 years. His record in 10 seasons is 21-39.
Exhibit D: Anthony was traded from the Nuggets to the Knicks in 2011. Anthony forced a trade, fleeing the small market team that drafted him for a top-tier one, all for money and exposure, according to public opinion.
This year, Anthony has seen his star rise (again); you can call it a story of redemption. His jersey was the most popular seller this season, surpassing James’ own. Anthony was the regular season scoring champion and was a candidate for the Most Valuable Player award, before James’ won it.
Yet, he almost sabotaged his dream season in February when he waited outside the Celtics’ team bus to fight Kevin Garnett, who allegedly insulted his wife during a game. Forbes magazine even named him the NBA’s Most Overpaid Player.
These incidents detract from Anthony’s overall successes. He’s won two Olympic gold medals as a member of Team USA. He also led his Syracuse Orange to the 2003 NCAA championship in his only year at college.
Did Kobe or LeBron win a college national championship? No, because they never went to college. And Anthony, like James, was one of the few high school phenoms to pan out professionally. Many never do.
Anthony and Wilkins have career scoring averages that are nearly identical: Wilkins finished at 24.8 and Anthony is currently at 25 points per game. Wilkins was dubbed the “Human Highlight Film” and was dominant over a 10-year stretch from 1984 to 1994.
Yet, postseason success has eluded them both.
Wilkins never won a championship and was mysteriously left off of the Original Dream Team and the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players List – a matter that should be investigated by a House sub-committee.
In the end, Wilkins played for six different teams in the last six years of his career, a denouement befitting a journeyman, not a nine-time NBA all-star.
Luckily, Anthony still has time to right his legacy; it starts (again) in the Knicks series versus the Pacers.
Anything less than a Knicks finals appearance will (again) cause people to think of Anthony as very good player who had a decent playoff run.
Even that won’t be good enough.
Tacuma R. Roeback is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TacumaRoe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+