I’ll admit it: I was one of the worried ones heading in to the Rio Olympics. I looked at the roster with an equal amount of confusion and apprehension. I couldn’t see it all coming together.
I forgot about one very important thing – this roster featured the greatest player in the history of USA Olympics men’s basketball.
Carmelo Anthony, as he has three times now, shined brightest under the ring-shaped lights of the Olympics. I thoroughly enjoyed this Summer of Melo and watching him win his third gold medal – more than any other men’s player – I gained a new level of appreciation for his game.
There are a number of great pieces out there breaking down why Melo’s game is so dominant on the international level. He’s done it time and again and while we shouldn’t have needed another reminder, he definitely gave us a powerful one in Rio.
When the Americans looked their most vulnerable, against Australia in the preliminary round, Anthony dropped 31 points to make sure they hung on. He looked calm and confident throughout the entire tournament.
He offered an intriguing lens through which to view this entire team. It was a team that many will argue was vastly underwhelming. There were far too many moments where they lacked urgency and let weaker teams hang around.
But ultimately, they got the job done. They destroyed Serbia in the gold medal game and reached that high level of play they probably should have been playing at the whole time.
The team, just like Melo, was flawed but still really, really great.
He also started an interesting debate about the value of an Olympic gold medal. He said he’d be happy with three gold medals even if he never won an NBA championship. DeAndre Jordan and others later echoed his ideas.
I don’t necessarily agree with Carmelo, but it is definitely an interesting thought. We tend to get so caught up in championships when thinking about the NBA that we forget to appreciate some really great players. Carmelo has never really come close to winning a title in the NBA. He can be criticized, rightly, I think, for chasing more money in New York instead of more wins.
But, as Dan Devine writes here, if he is ok with that, we should be too.
There should be more than one way to achieve success. There should be the freedom for players to choose what’s important to them and remain celebrated. Using a singular catch-all – RINGGZZZZ- is ridiculous and only serves to dampen our appreciation of awesome players.
This summer, his offseason by the way, Melo became the USA basketball all-time leading scorer, won a USABMNT-record third gold medal and became an important voice on a critical social issue. By any standard, he’s a winner.
Melo is undeniably a Hall of Famer. His three gold medals are a tremendous accomplishment and we would be wrong to dismiss his career if he fails to win an NBA Championship.