Every generation, a player enters the NBA with tremendous talent, unmatched confidence and street cred the likes of which few players can boast of.
When I speak of street cred, I do so with the full knowledge of all the accolades and stigmas said title comes with. Connie Hawkins had street cred, as did Nate Archibald, George “Iceman” Gervin, Julius Erving, a gold-chain wearing young Michael Jordan and more recently, Allen Iverson.
Players with street cred posses, for better or worse, traits that are identifiable to the common man in general, and to those living in urban environments in particular. Why does that matter? Because individuals living in urban environments have dictated what’s hot and what’s not since the 1920s. Carmelo Anthony has since picked up that baton for the current generation of young basketball fans.
Like many NBA superstars, Carmelo Anthony comes from humble beginnings. But unlike LeBron James, Kevin Durant and many others, his image has not been artificially scrubbed squeaky clean by corporate endorsements and image-conscious handlers.
Born in New York City and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Melo’s walk, linguistic diction, style of dress and play on the court are the envy of youngsters up and down the east coast as he is arguably the second-most popular NBA hooper this close to the Atlantic Ocean behind King James.
He is the NBA’s paramour of East Coast cool, but style alone doesn’t make parents plunk down 60 bucks for nosebleed seats in Madison Square Garden. It’s talent, and Anthony has that in spades. Last season, Carmelo almost equaled his career-best 29 point average with 28.7 ppg in winning the NBA scoring title. But, I am certain he would rather have won an NBA championship instead.
Some say he needs to pass the ball more, but who exactly was he to pass the ball to last season? An often-hobbled Amar’e Stoudemire? Perhaps he should have trusted more the conservative shot selection of J.R. Smith more. Perhaps you should stop reading now if you have to wonder whether or not I was joking when I called the notoriously streaky Sixth Man of the Year’s shot selection conservative.
The New York Knicks brought Anthony to New York because he is a scorer. Who but Melo gives the Mighty King James fits when catching the ball from the triple-threat position?
No, Anthony is not a passer or lock-down defender, though he could improve upon both. The career 25-point scorer will be 30-years-old next year and is perhaps quietly anxious as his contemporaries on both coasts reach Conference Finals and win championships. Carmelo has segued from a cornrow-wearing youngster with an attitude into a low Caesar haircut-having, bow tie-sporting, smooth basketball assassin right before our eyes.
Will that evolution see him become an NBA champion instead of a perennial basketball also-ran? Will he be this generation’s Dominique Wilkins, scoring a ton of points while achieving very little postseason success?
Well, as is often the case with evolution, we can never fully appreciate his basketball acumen until after all is said and done. But when you’re shooting over 45 percent from the field in addition to being an apex scorer in the NBA, you’re off to a pretty good start. Now its up to ownership and coach Mike Woodson to build a team around him that will not fold under pressure in a strengthening Eastern Conference.
Ricardo Hazell is a freelance sports writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at NikosMightyDad or add him to your network on Google Plus.