By Stephanie S
Carmelo Anthony is without a doubt the top player on the Knicks. Every team has a superstar: Melo is that guy. Being a 6-time All Star and a 3-time Olympic medalist, it seems inevitable that he would be a leader on the court as well as off; a versatile player who is good on either side of the ball and can pick up a team when they’re down. To be such a catalyst requires sturdy mental game, as well as making smart moves rather than trying to prove skill. It is farfetched to say that any one player can excel in all fields, but it is not improbable for a superstar player to touch upon both the physical and mental game. So what is holding Melo back from superstar status?
It is clear that Melo has the talent. He has the range and the innate ability to score. He is not known for his defense, but having a career 25 PPG can be enough to make up for that. What’s holding him back the most is his mental game.
It’s not a fact, but there are many clues pointing toward this being the barrier between star and superstar. Melo is marveled by the Knicks fanbase, and for good reason. However, when it comes to critics and members of other fanbases, Melo is “overrated” and “not as good as he thinks he is”. Especially in the world of the NBA, media and critics are a whirlwind of harsh critiques and biased accusations. It is not dubious to suspect that some of these critiques can be getting to his head (mind you that Carmelo has only been in New York since 2011). Mentality often slips under the radar in all sports, but in basketball, mental strength is almost, if not more important than physical strength. The worshipping from Knicks fans mixed with the bashing from critics creates a mindset of having to not only live up to expectations, but to greatly exceed them.
Consider some actual evidence. Melo hardly moves the ball around. Why? Because he wants the whole crowd to trust him and he wants to make sure he can make the majority of the shots for his team; because that’s what superstars are supposed to do. Melo often takes shots that bring fans’ palms to their faces. Why? Because he wants to be the guy who makes every impossible shot to prove his skill; because that’s what superstar’s are supposed to do. It doesn’t help that Melo often finds himself in an isolation play. If used too much, it can disrupt the flow between teammates and instill a message of “you’re the star, here’s the ball”. It also hurts when the team’s offense is centered around Melo; with not many options to keep kicking out to, Melo could feel overly responsible to take the most shots. When it has been said that you are the best offensive player on your team, you are going to think that it is your sole duty to score the points and win the game; which unavoidably leads to more shots taken to prove your dominance and less ball movement to ensure that those shots will belong to you.
This is not to say that Melo is selfish or unintelligent player, but the combination of overhype and under hype (so to speak) can lead to an approach of “give me the ball and let me take care of the rest”. The truth is, Melo cannot do it all by himself. He may not have the talent around him to help the team prosper, but if Carmelo can clear his mind of all self-inflicted pressure, begin to think tactically rather than acting in the moment, and prove to himself that he does not have to be an offensive monster to be a superstar, he will slowly but surely find that his team will better feed off of his game; and begin to see the number in the win column rising.