With Carmelo Anthony pouring in 31 points to help preserve Team USA’s tough victory over Australia Wednesday night, he became the USA’s all-time leading scorer in Olympic basketball competition. There have been some amazing players that have put on the Red, White and Blue for Team USA throughout the years. You have older all-time greats such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley and newer greats such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant that have all played for the US in the Olympics throughout the years. However, when it comes to Olympic basketball, Melo has become the ‘franchise player’ so to speak among the NBA players for Team USA. His overall experience, international-like skill set on the court, and confidence in making big shots has pushed Carmelo to the forefront of all of the players that have ever hooped for Team USA.
Back in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the fourth version of ‘The Dream Team’ – a team of mostly NBA stars – was put together to play. Because of worries about terrorist threats, a few NBA starts turned down the invite to play on the team. The selection committee then selected three young rookies to be a part of the team. Everyone knew that Melo, James and Dwyane Wade all would be eventual superstars in the league, but many felt that it was premature giving them this honor this early on in their careers. The three rookies (especially Carmelo) clashed with Team USA’s head coach Larry Brown, who notoriously didn’t like to play young players. Ultimately, Team USA had their worst showing since allowing NBA players to play in the Olympics and finished with a Bronze medal. Carmelo has mentioned several times how being on that team showed him that you can’t just show up and expect to win.
2004 was just the beginning of Carmelo’s time with Team USA. By the time the 2008 Olympics came around, Melo along with James and Wade were widely considered the best three players in the game. The team was dubbed ‘The Redeem Team’. Meaning the NBA players wanted to come together and reclaim the Gold for the US. While James and Wade starred with highlight reel steals and open court dunks, Melo provided the steady shooting and underrated rebounding that the team needed. Melo’s average was 11.5 points a game during that Olympics, but the average didn’t tell the whole story. One could look at his play during the games and tell that Melo relishes playing internationally for the US. Melo’s ‘killing em softly’ type play highlights this. From his almost automatic mid-range jump shot to the way he plays the offensive glass, Melo in some ways was most effective and efficient player on the team. Led by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Melo, the US did convincingly win back the gold medal.
With Carmelo coming off of the bench in the 2012 Olympics in London, he was clearly the best sixth man in the games. In a runaway victory over Nigeria, Melo turned in perhaps the highlight of his international career so far. In the game, Melo scored a record-breaking 37 points. He was 10 for 12 on three pointers in only 14 minutes of play. The three-point line in international play is a little closer than the NBA three-point line and Melo takes full advantage of that.
So far in these 2016 Olympic games, the star of the team has clearly been Carmelo. From his awesome Snapchat videos making fun of some of his younger teammates, to his now classic ‘old man’ response to the team singing Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A Thousand Miles’ on the team bus. Melo also playing in his now fourth Olympic games, he is officially the ‘old head’ of the team. As evidenced by the tight victory on Wednesday night versus Australia, Melo has come through to hit some huge shots to steady the ship for this team. Melo has also demonstrated that once he’s surrounded by talent (as all of these Olympic teams are stacked with) he can use his talents in a variety of ways rather than just trying to outgun the other teams, as he does pretty frequently while playing for the New York Knicks. While Carmelo may not be able to be a top star after another 3 to 4 years in the NBA, he has an international skill set that can translate for a long time on Team USA. Similar to Oscar Schmidt from Brazil, who played well into his 40’s on an international stage, Carmelo Anthony looks like he could also play on the Olympic stage for years and years. If Team USA does what many predict it will do and win the gold, Carmelo will be the only basketball player with three gold medals in Olympic play. In doing that, Carmelo will officially become the face of Team USA basketball.
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty
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