The NBA has made it’s bread and butter on both individual rivalries and team rivalries. In previous years the team rivalries have ranged from Celtics-Lakers, Lakers-Kings, Bulls-everybody, Knicks-Heat, to player rivalries like Bird-Magic, Jordan-everybody, and so on and so forth.
The NBA has tried to set up modern day Bird-Magic type rivalries with superstars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony and LeBron, but it just didn’t work out because players today are more than competitors — they’re friends and business partners.
When it comes to James and Anthony, they are far from rivals. Even though they currently play for franchises that have a past and fan bases that hate each other, there seems to be nothing but love between the two superstars.
‘Melo and LeBron came up together in the NBA and have known each other since high school. There has always been a friendly competition between the two but no hatred or bad blood. Carmelo is a superstar but not in the same category as LeBron right now. You can make an argument that Melo is the better scorer, but LeBron has him beat in almost every other category. Not only is LeBron the best overall player in the league, but he’s in the Michael Jordan-Kobe Bryant level when it comes to the greatness and legacy.
I consider Carmelo the anti-LeBron, for both good and bad reasons. There are many ways you can break this down. Not to poke fun at ‘Melo’s build, but he’s not exactly a swimsuit model. LeBron is a physical specimen; there’s no other way to put it.
The differences between the two glare in how they play on the court. Carmelo is a straight scorer, and even though he has put a better effort on the defensive end under Mike Woodson, he is still a below average defender. Anthony does rebound, but given his size, strength, and position in the four in the Knicks’ small-ball system, he could be an elite rebounder — a trait he only demonstrates sometimes. LeBron is a bull that can get to the rim at will, but just doesn’t have that natural scoring instinct like Carmelo. LeBron has improved his shooting, especially behind the arc, but Carmelo still has the better shot.
When it comes to making players around him better, there’s not much question on who’s better. LeBron has better court vision and passing skills than most point guards. He makes everyone around him better, not because he attracts the defense, but because he makes plays and sets his teammates up. LeBron isn’t selfish; he has actually been criticized for being not selfish enough. On the other hand, Carmelo doesn’t have nearly the same impact on his teammates and it’s not much of a secret. That’s not to say Anthony isn’t a great teammate (and I think he is a good leader, too), but he doesn’t make plays for his teammates like LeBron does.
One thing I believe Carmelo is better than LeBron at is his attitude and the way he interacts with the media. The inspiration for this article came from Carmelo’s comments towards his impending opt-out to become a free agent next summer. Carmelo has been straightforward with everyone his whole career on where he wants to play and how he conducts his business off the court. In Denver, he didn’t toy with them like Dwight Howard did in Orlando, or leave and embarrass Cleveland on national TV like LeBron did. He told the Denver Nuggets he wasn’t signing with them and told them to trade him. It put Denver in a bind, trying to get something for their departing superstar, but it worked out for both franchises. Carmelo was open with where he wanted to go, and you have to respect him for that. He has made it known he wants to have the experience of being a free agent. He won’t play with the media, franchise, and his fans all season.
On the other hand, LeBron has done the total opposite. I don’t need to get into what he did with “The Decision;” we all know how that was handled. LeBron has the same opt-out as Carmelo this summer, and I’m sure he will be doing everything he can to avoid any questions about it. He likely won’t defiantly announce he will become a free agent again, but he won’t outright say he will be staying with Miami, either. ‘Melo has said he wants to win in New York, but wants to be wined and dined in free agency for the first time in his career.
Anthony comes off as a laid-back guy who stays out of the spotlight, despite playing in the city with the brightest lights. Anthony’s had his brush-ups with the front-pages, but he’s not a recurring presence anymore. He does his best to avoid headline worthy comments, quite frankly, LeBron seems to relish the spotlight. Some of it might not be in his power, but it just seems like he always has something to say and always finds his way in the headlines.
When it comes to expectations, LeBron has held the championship-or-bust title forever, it seems. LeBron came into the league as the self-proclaimed king and automatically was expected to end his career with a fist full of rings. He didn’t help himself with the “not one, not two, not three” speech, but LeBron will be expected to win a title every year.
Carmelo has never been picked to win a title or been expected to be there. The Knicks franchise wants him to get them there, but fans deep down know Carmelo will most likely not take them there. Why? Partly because of LeBron and his dominant force in South Beach — it is his era and everyone else is second fiddle. But for some reason, Carmelo has never been placed with the burden of “championship or bust.” LeBron is the only player with this burden, even though mega stars like Kevin Durant and Chris Paul have never delivered titles of their own.
Carmelo Anthony isn’t LeBron James. No one is LeBron James, and that’s alright. The way they play on the court and how they interact off it, you can say Carmelo is the Anti-LeBron.