Don't blow it, 'Melo
Seattle Times NBA reporter
Like it or not, everybody in professional sports gets a second chance.
The more talent and potential an athlete has, the more opportunities they get to let us down or rehabilitate their shattered image.
Ever since Charles Barkley told us that he's not a role model back in 1993, our sporting heroes were removed from their pedestals. Yet time and time again we get duped into believing that people who make a living in athletics have the copyright to the moral compass. So against my better judgment, I proclaim Carmelo Anthony's days of sucker-punching, making inane appearances with assorted gangsters in a DVD that threatens violence against police informants, pouting on the bench and toting marijuana are over once he returns from a 15-game suspension on Monday.
I have no proof of this. It's just a working theory, supported by testimony from his friends, teammates and past and present coaches.
But mostly, it's an educated guess. I'm assuming that Anthony is smart enough to figure out he has run out of chances in Denver.
Another sucker punch, another drug-possession incident and another PR blunder that embarrasses the franchise and Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke will have no choice but to sever ties with employee No. 15, who received a five-year, $80 million contract last year.
With apologies to Barkley, no one gives you that kind of money just to dunk a basketball and make three-pointers.
"When you're the face of a franchise, you represent everybody associated with that team from the employees, to the owner, the players and the coaches," Miami all-star Dwyane Wade said. "It's never just about you. It's so much bigger than that."
Not sure if Anthony understands that yet.
You'd think he'd get it by now. You'd think after carrying Syracuse to a national title as a freshman in 2003 that he'd know what it takes to be a leader.
You'd think after being appointed a captain, averaging a team-high 19.9 points and leading USA Basketball to a bronze medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championships, that Anthony was no longer the petulant wannabe superstar who pouted because he was benched during the 2004 Olympics.
And it certainly seemed as if Anthony paid a costly penance for past misdeeds when he donated $1.5 million to the Carmelo Anthony Youth Foundation in his hometown of Baltimore and gave $3 million to Syracuse.
Then again, maybe it was just a high-priced makeover.
Anthony is averaging a league-best 31.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. But if the multi-talented small forward had truly elevated his game to the lofty heights shared by LeBron James and Wade — his fellow 2003 draft members and Team USA teammates — then he would have never had thrown that roundhouse right that landed on Mardy Collins' jaw.
"He let his emotions get the best of him and he's paying the price for it," James said. "He'll learn from his mistakes."
The infamous punch in the New York Knicks-instigated melee at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 16 cost Anthony almost everything.
It took him out of the lineup for 15 games. It took $641,000 out of his wallet in lost pay. And it has taken him out of MVP conversations.
According to the Denver Post, however, Anthony's punch won't hurt his chances of making his first All-Star appearance next month in Las Vegas. The paper reports 13 Western Conference coaches said they'd vote for him as a reserve and not hold his suspension against him.
Well, that's nice, but so what?
A meaningless All-Star Game won't change Anthony's battered image, nor will it return Denver to the league's elite. Only playoff wins can do that. Outside of the Nuggets locker room, no one expects them to win an NBA title this season.
When Denver signed Allen Iverson a few weeks ago, I picked the Nuggets to advance to the Western Conference finals. That may seem a little idiotic, but that's how much I believe in Anthony.
When he's at his best, few in this league are his equal. Maybe James, Wade and a handful of the others, but it's a short list.
Still, it takes more than talent to win a title, and you have to question Anthony's character and decision-making.
So here are a few unsolicited words of advice: Stop snitching? Naaah, stop moonwalking.
Wish I could take credit for that line, but I stole it from a rapper out of New York who calls himself J-Zone. A lot of folks weren't upset that Anthony sent Collins crashing to the floor, but 'Melo lost whatever street cred he had when he refused to stand his ground and fight, instead running away from a hard-charging Jared Jeffries.
The "stop moonwalking" line might have been meant as an insult, but there's a lot of truth in it.
Anthony needs to quit backtracking. He has retreated far too many times during his one-step forward, two-steps-back career.
It's time for the 22-year-old to grow up. Time to reclaim his place alongside James, an All-Star MVP, and Wade, a Finals MVP.
Barkley once said in his Nike commercial: "Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids."
He's right about that.
But so, too, is Wade when he says a star represents the entire team.
And just because you're the face of the franchise, you still only get so many second chances.
Better make it a good one, kid.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
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