JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Me Low

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Watched the highlights from Knicks-Kings tonight, including Carmelo Anthony’s awful last-second huck from beyond the three-point line that probably had a 6-percent chance of going in.

And I thought—yup.

This was Carmelo Anthony. The Carmelo Anthony whose game has always been me-me-me-me awfulness. The Carmelo Anthony who plays dreadful defense and rarely looks for others. The Carmelo Anthony who seems to see basketball as entertainment first, sports second. He’s the epitome of the self-centered modern athlete, seeking glory and dollars over wins and rings. If you’ve watched him in the years since he left Syracuse for the NBA, his game has rarely changed or morphed or improved. He’s the guy who dribbles, dribbles, dribbles, dribbles, then—even if two or three guys are guarding him—shoots. And shoots. And shoots.

Through his time in New York, Anthony has talked about the need for other scorers. But, to be honest, I’ve always considered it more posturing than reality. Anthony wants to be The Man, not a man. That’s why, I’m guessing, he’s more than a little conflicted by the arrival and emergence of Kristaps Porzingis, the 20-year-old Latvian rookie who has gifted New York with another charming dose of Linsanity. Nobody expected Porzingis to do much this season. He was, we were told, young, raw, green, soft. The Knicks hated landing the fourth pick in the draft, because—again, we were told—the top three players were money. The fourth, a question mark. 

Now, though, it’s quite clear that the Knicks’ future is Porzingis and, in many ways, the Knicks’ present is Porzingis, too. He’s the guy with the hot jersey; the guy signing endorsement deals; the guy landing the loudest cheers. He can shoot from the outside, attack the lane. Suddenly, Carmelo Anthony feels like American Idol—there, mildly amusing, but well past its usefulness.

He took the awful last shot because it’s what a superstar is supposed to do.

Even when he’s not a superstar.