It’s been a memorable Olympics thus far for two-time gold medalist Carmelo Anthony. On his latest quest for gold, the New York Knicks forward became the all-time scoring leader for Team USA, surpassing LeBron James. An Olympic veteran with three previous campaigns under his belt, Anthony was soon acknowledged as the US squad’s elder statesman and de facto closer, knocking down clutch threes in crunch time.
Off the court, Anthony visited Rio’s favelas, supported his fellow athletes, and leading up to the games utilized the Olympic spotlight to bring attention to his burgeoning activism. The NBA All-Star has come a long way from his Olympic debut, which was spoiled by Argentina’s “Golden Generation.”
Former US coach Larry Brown’s resistance to playing rookies forced Anthony to watch much of the 2004 Olympics from the sidelines. At least he had a good seat for a stunning run by La Alma Argentina, which featured a hell-bent for leather Manu Ginobili in his prime. Ginobili propelled his upstart team to Olympic gold in Athens, forcing Anthony and NBA icons Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, and a young King James to settle for bronze.
The narrative shifted at the 2008 games in Beijing, where Anthony excelled on the “Redeem Team” to claim his first gold medal. Coached by Mike Krzyzewski and captained by Kobe Bryant, Team USA was undefeated in China, crushing the opposition with renewed focus and superior athleticism. Regarded as one of the most gifted scorers in the NBA, Anthony’s offensive range fused perfectly with the international game where he almost effortlessly put points on the board.
A change of scenery yielded similar results at the 2012 games in Sydney, where the US again went undefeated to capture Olympic gold. The Americans leaned heavily on Kobe and Coach K to set the tone, with Anthony averaging 16 points per contest. The Gasol brothers posed a formidable opponent in the finale, where Team USA survived a tight victory against Spain to claim the top spot on the podium.
On Wednesday night in Rio, Carmelo helped close the chapter on Ginobili’s international career in a blowout victory over Argentina. Unable to capitalize on an off shooting night from Anthony, the Argentinian squad was ultimately overwhelmed by Team USA’s suffocating depth. Ginobili was understandably emotional as the sun set on a basketball generation that defined the gold standard in South America.
Next up for the Anthony is a semifinals rematch against Pau Gasol and La Roja on Friday afternoon, with the gold medal game looming on Sunday. A pair of victories would guarantee a third gold for Anthony, making him the first US baller to accomplish the feat. Anthony was criticized earlier this week for valuing his Olympic achievements over an NBA title, and US Assistant Coach Jim Boehim, who led Carmelo to an NCAA championship at Syracuse, quickly came to his defense.
“Carmelo hasn’t changed as a player from the first day I saw him,” Boeheim told Syracuse.com. “You know, everybody blames him for the Knicks. But he’s one guy. He’s on a bad team. He plays about the same way with the Knicks as he’s playing right now for us down here. But he’s had no help in New York.”
To become arguably the greatest US Olympic baller of all time, Anthony will have to dispatch Spain, and the winner of the semifinals showdown between Australia and Serbia. Australia’s Boomers have posed the stiffest challenge for the US at these Olympics, and with four NBA champions on their roster, will not back down from physical play. As Venezuela Coach Nestor Garcia emphasized earlier in the tournament however, with this much talent on their roster, Team USA still has the potential to be deadly on the court.
“We tried to be aggressive because they like to play a lot of one-on-one and like to look for the mismatch,” Nestor told the LA Times in defeat. “You don’t want to give a chance that they run because when they run, they kill.”