Ever since Carmelo Anthony’s championship freshman campaign (likely the best one-and-done ever), titles have eluded him. Melo is going to the Hall of Fame when he retires as a scoring champion, 10-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA selection. The Larry O’Brien trophy is the only thing missing from his mantle.
So an NBA crown, even as the third fiddle to Damian Lilliard and CJ McCollum in Portland, would silence the critics, right? People could no longer claim he is a regular season player, an empty scorer, or even a selfish and ball hungry shooter (although that ship sailed years ago).
Anthony shined in Game 1 of the first round against the Nuggets. The Trailblazers ran away with it 123-109 with the help of 18 points on 4-8 from range from Melo in just 22 minutes. It was his first win in Denver since the trade that sent him to the Knicks in 2011.
To some that might seem like one small step towards silencing the critics and winning an NBA ring. But Melo might be able to at least quiet the critics just by winning the first round. Anthony won just three playoff series in his storied 17-year career. That includes Denver’s run to the conference finals in 2009 when they lost to the eventual champion Lakers. Anthony mustered just one playoff series victory (2013) in his seven seasons in New York.
It’s postseason struggles like these that prompted Nuggets fans to boo Anthony in Game 1. After the game he said, “I don’t know what it is. I gave my all here for seven and a half, eight years. I’ve never said anything bad about Denver, about the fans, about the organization, players, never complained. (I) took everything on the chin. Even when it wasn’t my fault, I raised my hand and said ‘I’ll take the blame for it.’”
So it seems Anthony believes the postseason numbers aren’t fair, and that as the superstar he received an unfair chunk of the blame. But the NBA is a superstar league, which means the superstars get the blame in losses and the credit in wins. If Portland makes a run, Melo will be a victim of circumstance. At age 36 (five days away from 37), he’s not the superstar anymore. The fans and the media will look to Lilliard as the Trailblazer messiah. If Portland loses, Anthony won’t get the blame now. But the numbers will haunt his legacy down the road.
He is 3-12 in postseason series right now. Nothing short of a title can fix the warranted perception that Carmelo Anthony chokes in the playoffs.