(Editor’s Note: Before I say anything, I want to go on record saying that I would take $120-plus million, too, if someone offered me that to stay in New York.)
Death, taxes and Carmelo Anthony taking money over winning titles.
There comes a point in every elite athletes career when they have to decide between money and the opportunity to compete for a championship. For the elites of elites, the two (money and championship opportunity) come hand in hand. Not for Melo.
At least not yet.
Before LeBron’s letter, Melo’s web site announcement, the hysteria and the overspending, we knew two things coming into NBA Free Agency — LeBron was probably going to re-sign in Miami and Carmelo was probably going to join a contending team.
The masses wrong about both. I was wrong about both.
Thought this was going to be Melo’s time to finally take winning over money. He didn’t.
Even though reports indicated that he was awfully close to signing with the Chicago Bulls, a scenario in which he was going to take a major pay cut (perhaps upwards of $10 million), he didn’t.
He could’ve taken a max four-year deal in Houston, a situation in which the Rockets would’ve easily been a top-3 team in the league and perhaps the early 2015 NBA Finals favorites, he didn’t.
Instead, he bypassed both the Bulls’ and Rockets’ situations — and the Lakers’ along the way — as he agreed to re-sign with the Knicks with a cool $120-plus million deal.
Exchanging the chance at possible rings for money.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane just a bit. According to Stephen A. Smith, there was never supposed to be a Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. It was supposed to be James, Wade and Melo. That’s what he told the Dan LeBatard Show last week.
Why wasn’t it Melo? Because he couldn’t leave money on the table back in 2006, for the potential of something transcendent. During that summer, both Wade and James signed three year deals, with a player option for the fourth year. Melo didn’t want to leave money on the table and signed a full five-year contract with no opt out opportunity.
Thus, Melo wasn’t a free agent during the summer of 2010 and couldn’t fulfill the original idea for the Big Three. Chris Bosh gladly filled in, and after four straight trips to the NBA Finals they each have two rings to show for it.
That could’ve been Melo. At least Melo got his money, though.
But that wasn’t the only instance. Then again, when Melo “demanded” a trade to New York (in 2011), instead of simply signing there outright in the offseason (when his contract would expire), his demands gutted a solid Knicks team of Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton (who later returned), Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov and first-round pick (ironically, 2014′s).
Oh what could’ve been.
But in 2014, Melo had an opportunity to make it all right — to change his MO. Instead, he chose money.
I know there are circumstances that I’ll never understand from Melo’s point of view — family, home, continuity, money (?) etc. And the great thing is that he isn’t in a position in which he has to explain. That’s the beauty of it all.
Not now at least.
So before you pay two cents to buy Melo’s BS that he’s going to throw at you about how he is “buying” into Phil Jackon’s plan to bring the Knicks back on top of the basketball world, read this and understand that there was really only two options this offseason.
No middle ground.
Money or opportunity.
Sure, there’s always a chance that Phil can actually build a championship team in New York. Heck, eventually, it has to happen. The sad part is by the time we get there, Carmelo Anthony will no longer be Melo. He’ll be Carmelo. And this conversation won’t even matter.
He won’t have that killer quick first step, nor that silky smooth jumper. By the time Phil manages to field a championship contender, Carmelo will be resorting to more of a post game than ever before.
But at least he’ll always have that 2009 season in Denver. The moment when it seemed like Melo was actually going to be on of those elites that managed to have it all — money and opportunity.
Since then, Melo is only 1-3 in playoff series’. He’s only seen the second round twice and has only seen the third round once.
But at least he has his money.
And in the end, perhaps that’s all that matters to him. After all, why shouldn’t it? Beneath the fans, the scheduling, the commercialization and the broadcasting, it’s still just a job. Maybe that’s all that Melo sees it as.
Perhaps chasing rings isn’t all that important as many make it out to be. LeBron did just choose to go home — a place in which he’s comfortable in, not a place in which he’ll win a championship right away.
LeBron changed the NBA Free Agency game back in 2010, he changed it again in 2014. Just as Carmelo Anthony did.