For the oft-maligned New York Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony, the XXX Olympiad in London has been his long-awaited road to redemption.
Sure he helped the “Redeem Team” capture the gold medal in Beijing in 2008, but despite his recent success on and off the court, Anthony has been one of the most disparaged players in the NBA for his portrayal of a one-man show on Broadway. Over the span of his decade long career, Anthony has been tagged as an egotistical player, who puts himself before the success of his team. Most recently, he was labeled as a primary source in the divorce between Linsanity and the Knicks. In London, no Olympian needs the cleansing agents of wearing the red, white and blue –en route to a gold model– more than Melo does.
The U.S. Olympic basketball program has always been the perfect refuge for Anthony, liberating him of tyranny that is the NBA and allowing him to repair his basketball image. There’s no better barometer to the success of USA director Jerry Colangelo’s program over the past several summers than Melo. When he’s rolling, Team USA is unbeatable. On a American team that features a combined 43 All-Star appearances, seven NBA titles and four league MVPs, Anthony has been the most consistent threat U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been able to rely on this summer.
As Spain did a week ago in exhibition, Nigeria came into Day Three of Pool play predicting an upset against the Americans. Like the Spanish last week, Anthony left the Nigerians feeling dazed, defeated and humiliated, as Team USA set Olympic records for most points scored in a half (78), and in a game, on their way to an 83 point rout of the Olympic newbie’s for the final score, 156-73. Melo scored 37 points, on 10-of-12 shooting from behind the arc –in an epic 14 minutes and 29-second stretch– setting a U.S. Olympic record for points, 3-pointers made (and attempted), and breaking former Knick Stephon Marbury’s record of 31 points set against Spain at the Athens games in 2004.
Melo, who made five 3-pointers in the first half, put on a shooting clinic in the third quarter. With the U.S. bench standing in anticipation every time he touched the rock on the perimeter, Anthony made all five of his attempts in the period, punctuating the final three, that made it 100-54, by turning and walking toward the opposite end of the court, Jordanesque shrugging his shoulders. He was in a zone unlike any has witnessed before in the summer games. The irony of it all– ousted Knick coach and Team USA assistant coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense was Anthony’s benefactor.
“Unexplainable, man. It’s unexplainable,” Anthony said to Craig Sager in NBC’s post game interview. “That’s the only thing I can say about it.”
As a benchwarmer on the 2004 bronze medal “Disgrace Team,” averaging only 2.4 points per game, Melo knew one day he would get the opportunity to redeem their lost, but also get the chance to restore his image and drop his knucklehead label. Eight years later, Anthony is standing tall as one of the leaders on Team USA’s All-Star squad and doing it the right way, silencing his naysayers. “We’re a team [and] we’re focused,” he continued. “As a country we’re focused, as basketball players we’re focused. We know what’s at stake and we know what we want. And the taste of defeat, didn’t taste to good in 2004. We’re locked in for this Olympics.”
Locked in and on target.