I try not to pay too much attention to talking heads going on and on about legacies. There are a variety of reasons for this, ranging from the fact that a lot of these talking heads are no better informed than you or me, to the fact they’re often driven by creating headlines with their takes, be they hot or cold. But with that in mind, a lot of attention has been given to what Carmelo Anthony’s legacy will ultimately be lately.
So what’s Carmelo’s legacy? What will people say about Carmelo Anthony when he hangs them up a few years down the road?
There’s still plenty of time for Carmelo to cement himself as one of the best players of his generation, of course. But for some bizarre reason, people have already started to form (often misinformed) opinions. Just yesterday, I saw people on Twitter suggesting that Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have a “winner’s mentality.”
Doesn’t have a winner’s mentality? The guy won an NCAA Championship as a college freshman. Assuming the USA wins gold this year, he’ll have three gold medals on his mantle. He obviously hasn’t won an NBA title yet, but that’s hardly been (solely) his fault.
The year before the Denver Nuggets selected Carmelo with the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the franchise finished with a record of 17-65. The year before that, they were 27-55. The Nuggets went from 1995 up until the year they drafted Carmelo without once making the NBA playoffs, and never had a winning record in any of those seasons. Their win totals from 1995-96 until 2002-03: 35, 21, 11, 14, 35, 40, 27, 17.
That, friends, is a horrendously bad franchise. And then, they drafted Carmelo. The guy who doesn’t have a “winner’s mentality.”
Carmelo played with the Nuggets from his rookie year in 2003-04 until being traded to the Knicks in 2011. And in all of those seasons in Denver, guess what never happened?
The Nuggets – who hadn’t won more than 40 games in a season and hadn’t made the playoffs since 1995 – didn’t miss the playoffs even once. Let’s take a look at the win totals with Carmelo on Denver’s roster, from 2003-04 until 2010-11 (he was traded that season): 43, 49, 44, 45, 50, 54, 53, 50.
Since Carmelo was traded to the Knicks, let’s take a look at Denver’s win totals in the post-Melo era: 38, 57, 36, 30, 33.
Notice a trend there? Outside of the 2012-13 season, which saw Denver win 57 games, the Nuggets fell right down below .500 every other season after trading away this player who, for some bizarre reason, people insist is not a “winner” because he hasn’t won an NBA title.
Now, the Knicks are another story, because that franchise has been a mess for a long, long while. Prior to trading for Carmelo, the Knicks hadn’t made the playoffs since the 2003-04 season. After acquiring Carmelo, they made it to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons with the team. Now, the team’s missed the playoffs three straight years since then, but it’s awfully hard to blame that on Anthony. His supporting cast has hardly been what you’d call “stellar.”
Carmelo may never win an NBA title. Honestly, at this point I’d be surprised if he does unless he leaves the Knicks and becomes a hired gun, similar to what Karl Malone and Gary Payton did by signing with the Lakers at the ends of their careers.
But here are some hard numbers to consider when looking at Carmelo Anthony’s legacy:
1 NCAA Championship
1 Final Four Most Outstanding Player
2 (and soon, probably 3) Olympic Gold Medals
10 NBA Playoff appearances for franchises that had been in the lottery before acquiring him
USA Men’s Basketball’s all-time leading scorer
USA Men’s Basketball’s all-time leading three point shooter
USA Men’s Basketball’s second all-time leading rebounder (with a chance to take the top spot)
9-time NBA All-Star
22,497 (and counting) career points in the NBA
Honestly, that’s a Hall of Fame resume. For whatever reason, Carmelo continues to have shots taken against him by people who are quick to label him a loser and a thug for no discernible reason, particularly with all evidence pointing to the contrary on both counts.
The USA Men’s Basketball team is struggling a little, playing down to its competition a bit in the Rio Olympics. That’s hardly through any fault of Carmelo’s, though. The team is poorly constructed, frankly, and Melo has been generally regarded as one of the few consistent bright spots. When it’s all said and done, Carmelo Anthony may go down as the greatest men’s basketball player in USA Olympics history. His resume will certainly back up such claims.
That’s not such a bad legacy to have. And it’s not too shabby for a guy lacking a “winner’s mentality.”