Within the world of major sports, a superstar inherently holds a lot of power, and in the NBA it is no different.
LeBron James, the best basketball player of the modern era, is known for influencing the decisions made by whatever franchise he plays for, illustrated by the way he speaks to the media about his teammates, his coaching staff and the front office.
Erik Spoelstra won two titles coaching the Big Three in Miami and would not have done it without James’ locker room leadership and ability to influence Pat Riley into adjusting the team to his liking. Now that he went back home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, James has already pulled some strings in order to meet his future coach to (reportedly) let him know who really is in charge of the organization now that he is back, according to Stephen A. Smith.
LeBron has also negotiated one of the blockbuster deals of this offseason, by indirectly bringing superstar Kevin Love to the Cavs.
What does that have to do with New York?
Well, Carmelo Anthony has been the equivalent of LeBron for the New York Knicks the past couple of seasons, considering the way he bullied himself to the city and how he managed to make Knicks owner James Dolan his No. 1 fan. He is the go-to guy when things don’t go well on the court. He is the go-to guy when journalists need to blame someone. He is also one of the only real hopes of bringing an NBA title back to New York. The thing is, now that Phil Jackson is in charge, he will not have the same amount of power anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, Anthony is one of the most prolific scorers in the league, one of the top-five offensive players of the last decade. He is the central piece, the cornerstone over which the Knicks plan to build a championship team, but he is not bigger than Jackson.
In a recent interview in Puerto Rico, Anthony mentioned his relationship with new head coach Derek Fisher and how they are focused on the same objective of making this season the best it can be for the team. He is apparently very excited and happy about coming back to New York after free agency and is eager to work hard to achieve that objective.
This is all fun and dandy, but I remember how Anthony told coach Mike Woodson in a huddle during a game last season to just play the game, and I can’t avoid but thinking that he now thinks he became the franchise representative. If Anthony thinks he will be able to influence the coaching staff and the front office directly, he is completely wrong.
Of course, having signed a $124 million contract is influence enough to make the franchise build a team around you, but this is as far as his influence is going to go. He will be a leader in the locker room (albeit not nearly as outspoken and assertive as Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James) and the spokesman for the squad, but to assume that he is the man behind Phil Jackson’s decisions is just plain delusional.
Jackson has the curriculum, the knowledge and the power — 13 rings will earn you this position. Meanwhile, Anthony is just a player. Not a champion, not an MVP, just a great basketball player.