There’s a basketball player by the name of Carmelo Anthony. He’s 35 years of age and still in basketball shape.
Melo was the best player in his high school class. In high school, Melo outplayed and defeated a kid from Ohio named LeBron in a game between their respective schools (LBJ was in the class after Melo).
In his only year of college basketball, Melo led Syracuse to its only national championship.
Melo has a well-earned track record of being a prolific scorer. Scoring points in a game like basketball, where putting the ball in the basket is literally the name of the game, is an important job. Melo is one of the best to ever do so. Melo has a career scoring average of 24.01 points per game, good for 21st all time.
EVER. In the history of the NBA.
Between 1964-2014, there had been 3,071 NBA players. Only twenty scored points more consistently than Carmelo Anthony.
Melo’s career scoring average is higher than several other one-name guys you know — guys like Shaq, Dame, Kyrie, Steph, Westbrook, Barkley, D-Wade, Ewing, and Dirk.
In other words, Melo is a really good — and proven — basketball player.
But, Melo is currently unemployed, unsigned by any NBA team.
From what I’ve seen and heard, there are generally two classes of people who have an opinion on Melo.
Melo Fans believe that Melo is being hated on and overlooked for some odd reason. They think the edited clips of Melo scoring bucket after bucket in defense-less (my objective opinion; see the video for yourself and tell me if I’m wrong) pickup games means Melo is clearly better than most signed NBA players and that Melo deserves a chance. Melo’s trainer is a dedicated Melo Fan.
Melo Detractors exist on the other end of the Melo spectrum. These people believe that Melo is “not a team player.” That’s he’s selfish and a ball hog and that he doesn’t make his teammates better and that his career is — and should be — over. Detractors even point to the fact that Melo’s well-known NBA friends — LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, And Chris Paul — don’t even try to get (or keep) Melo on their teams.
I, being me, see some validity in both sides of this discussion and conclude that neither side is as right as it thinks.
Melo is good enough to be employed by an NBA team. The guy can flat-out score points; this skill is why Melo will be in the Hall Of Fame. On this skill alone, Melo can help a team.
The NBA game has changed a bit from how it was in Melo’s heyday, when he was a 10-time All-Star. Melo himself has also changed in a way.
First, the game.
Thanks in part to the Golden State Warriors, a whole new version of basketball is played today. Every player can/must be able to shoot, dribble, defend multiple positions, and play within a flowing offense. There are a few exceptions; players we know as “Superstars.” Everyone else must adapt to the changing landscape of the game.
These days, weak and/or uninterested defenders get singled out and attacked relentlessly by opposing offenses. Weak defenders get, as we say, “played off the floor” — made into such a defensive liability that their coaches realize that Player X cannot be inserted into a game.
Secondly, Melo himself.
Basketball players have a shelf life. When you’re young (in basketball, this is up to your late 20s), you’re spry and active and at your physical peak. As time advances and you age, you learn to see the game better mentally. The brief window (2-5 years) during which your mental game and physical game intersect is known as your prime. In basketball, this usually occurs between ages 27-33, give or take a year. Look at the stats of legendary players, and this usually bears true.
To test that estimate, my personal basketball prime would have been between 2008-2014, the years that were my best pro playing experiences; my most prolific video-posting years on YouTube; the period in which I built the brands that became DreAllDay and Work On Your Game, mostly on the back of my basketball exploits; and the time when I was, subjectively, jumping the highest and running the fastest.
Melo’s prime years are past him.
That doesn’t mean that Melo can’t play anymore. It just means that he needs to adjust — to no longer being the focal point of an offense. To not having the ball in his hands so much. To being OK with not being the center of attention. To no longer having his defensive shortcomings overlooked.
I praised Melo at the beginning of the post, and now I’ll say this: Melo is currently unsigned because of what appears to be his lack of adjustment to the above changes.
Melo’s strength as a player was being on a team that was organized around Melo. He could dominate the ball and score his points. Though never the best defender, what Melo lacked on D, Melo made up for with more points. This strategy worked for the most part; Melo’s teams weren’t quite championship contenders, but they were very good.
If Melo signs with an NBA team, he would be the 3rd scoring option on that team, at best. He’d probably be coming off the bench. He probably won’t score enough points to cancel out his defensive shortcomings, which means he’d be playing less and sitting on the bench more.
For a player like Melo, a sure Hall Of Famer who has legions of fans and a bonafide resume to back him up, these truths are more a mental challenge than a physical one. Melo is unsigned today because no NBA team is certain that Melo can adjust to these challenges. No team is sure that this former star can adjust to not being the star.
The question about Melo is not if he’s “better than 70% of the league (though the market has answered emphatically, NO),” or if he can score baskets against a willing defender (he better; that’s the only skill that can get him a contract). Thus, Melo, his camp and Fans should stop answering these questions.
The true question is if Melo can adjust to any role that doesn’t befit what he was comfortable with in building his Hall Of Fame resume. Neither Melo nor anyone in his camp has addressed this question.
That’s the only reason why Melo is a free agent.
Often when we’re stuck in life, we are where Melo is now: answering questions that no one’s even asking.
Displaying skills that are not in demand. Being good when and where it doesn’t matter to be good. Working hard at things that provide very little return.