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Carmelo Anthony

June 30, 2003 Columns No Comments

Together Forever, On Different Teams

by Phil Kasiecki

When their schools met in Trenton, New Jersey in February of 2002, it was an epic matchup at the time. The previous year, Mouth of Wilson, Virginia powerhouse Oak Hill Academy narrowly defeated St. Vincent-St. Mary’s from Akron, Ohio, a school that featured the player said to be the best in America regardless of class – and he was a junior. This matchup promised to be even better – and it did not disappoint.

LeBron James, then a junior small forward at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, wasn’t planning on losing again. This time, Oak Hill’s roster featured senior Carmelo Anthony, a Baltimore native widely rated as one of the top three players in the high school class of 2002, and like James a small forward.

To make a long story short, Oak Hill nipped St. Vincent-St. Mary’s once again, but the two star small forwards put on a show for the ages. James had 36 points, including clutch shot after clutch shot, and made many great passes that caught the attention of fans. Anthony led the winners with 34 points, and showed that he was no slouch, either.

Now, it’s almost like it was set up this way, as this was just the first time the two brought out comparisons to one another.

After Anthony had a big season at Syracuse in leading the Orangemen to the national title, he surprised no one when he declared for the NBA Draft. When he did that, what once was thought to be a foregone conclusion had many people asking a question: do you really take LeBron James if you have the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft?

Much discussion ensued, and it certainly helps that both play the same position (small forward) and are both charismatic young men who know how to lead a team. Both have mature bodies and similar specs; the NBA Draft Guide lists both at 6’8″, with James at 240 pounds and Anthony weighing in at 220. Both can score in a number of ways, are highly-skilled offensive players, great athletes, and do other things besides score to help their team win games.

Some felt Carmelo just might be a better pick, especially in the immediate future with his one year of college. Another school of thought was that LeBron would sell tickets, which is what a number one pick is supposed to do – but Anthony would do that as well with the charisma he has and what leading a team to the national championship did for him. Even so, generally most felt LeBron was still the right pick, that to take Carmelo over LeBron would take a lot of guts.

Draft night was just the latest step in the two players being inexorably linked for years to come. James was taken first overall by the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, as expected, while Anthony went third overall and will be a Denver Nugget. Adding to what has already been discussed, one person in Carmelo’s interview mistakenly addressed him as “LeBron” when asking him a question.

Projections abound as to who will be the better player when it’s all said and done, but Carmelo isn’t trying to prognosticate.

“I can’t look that far in the future”, he said when asked who he thinks will have the better career.

In the end, it won’t be surprising if neither player has an appreciably better career by most measurements. Regardless of what happens, the players respect each other, and publicly, they won’t measure their accomplishments by the other’s. Asked if he feels he has something to prove in being selected third, Anthony didn’t talk about LeBron.

“I’m motivated to be the best that I can be,” he said. “I’m motivated anyway, without LeBron going number one, Darko (Milicic) going number two. I’m just a motivated person, and I’m going to work hard, stay in the gym all day, every day, as much as I can.”

Much as the two won’t talk about what others will measure them by, Carmelo knows that LeBron and he will be linked for as long as they play.

“It’s going to be some kind of rivalry out there, probably a friendly rivalry, but it’s going to be a rivalry out there every time we step out on the court,” he added.

A rivalry that all basketball fans will be watching closely.


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