With the New York Knicks securing the Atlantic Division for the first time since 1994, plenty of speculation has surfaced regarding their capability of winning a NBA Championship. Carmelo Anthony has once again placed himself in the Most Valuable Player discussion in the midst of the Knicks impressive 13-game winning streak. Carmelo actually missed the Knicks first win against the Utah Jazz that kicked off the streak on March 18th, but shortly joined the team for the following 12 wins.
Averaging 33.0 points per game during the entirety of the Knicks winning stretch he’s been a part of, and an astronomical 40.6 in his last five games, Carmelo has proved he’s unquestionably one of the NBA’s most prominent superstars. With a season scoring average of 28.6, Melo has also managed to snag the scoring lead from Kevin Durant for the time being.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Carmelo became the only player since Michael Jordan to score at least 40 points while shooting 60 percent from the field in three consecutive games. Jordan’s stretch was during the 1991-1992 season. Also, Carmelo is the first player to score 35+ points in five straight games, since Kobe Bryant in 2007.
So this leaves us to contemplate, besides god-given talent, what does it take to become a superstar? Leadership, heart, and the will to the able to put the ball in basket, no matter how crucial the situation is at hand, separates the men from the boys. The New York Knicks can safely say they have that player.
Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks own superstar, finally decided to erupt towards the end of the 2011 season. The Mavs won the NBA championship that year in because they were balanced, experienced, well-coached, and most of all, led by Nowitzki’s legendary playoff performance. Dallas began the immaculate playoff run with first-round victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, followed by a second-round sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers, and then a nail-biting win in six games over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With the Mavericks capitalizing on the chance to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, Nowitzki seized the moment, taking full advantage of the opportunity. During the 2011 NBA post-season, Nowitzki averaged 27.7 points per game, shooting 48.5 percent from the field, and an incredible 94 percent from the free-throw line.
I have always had profound respect for Nowitzki, given the fact he’s arguably the greatest international player of all time, and certainly the most efficient outside shooter at seven feet tall we’ve ever seen, but I never looked at him as the type of player capable of his torrid playoff performance. Most of his career, he received the same criticism Carmelo continues to deal with today.
I didn’t believe the Mavericks had it in them to win over the Heat in the fashion they did, and I would bet most people would agree with that in a heartbeat. Have you noticed anything eerily familiar about this Knicks team today, compared to the 2011 Mavs? Tyson Chandler is anchoring the paint defensively, and Jason Kidd’s veteran leadership at the point guard position continues to be a key ingredient in the Knicks overall play. The former Mavs starters have created a winning atmosphere they endured in back in Dallas. JR Smith and Jason Terry play near identical roles as the X-factor coming off the bench, with the offense constantly revolving around Carmelo and Nowitzki.
I have nothing but respect for our former NBA greats, but I simply saw Nowitzki ending his career much like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, etc. Personal achievements through the roof, but no hardware to show for it. I’m not taking anything away from the legends I just mentioned, and I know they had to go through what’s his name, Michael Jordan. But you either get it done, or you don’t, it’s a simple concept.
I always looked at Nowitzki as more of a “numbers” superstar, rather then the type of player that can put an entire team on his back during the playoffs. Despite Nowitzki’s accolades as an 11-time All-Star, 12-time All-NBA player, and a regular top five scorer in the league, he was ringless for much of his career. In fact, the at the time 34-year-old Nowitzki didn’t rise up in the wake of his title until his 13th season. Just a reminder, the 29-year-old Anthony is in his tenth season. He’s got plenty of time, and who is to say the time is not right now.
Carmelo’s recent tear has reminded me vividly of how Nowitzki went completely bonkers during that 2011 post-season. The one massive difference: the end of Nowitzki’s tear resulted in a championship ring and a Finals MVP trophy, cementing it’s historical value in the NBA forever, and also himself as an all-time great. This 13-game winning streak the Knicks are now a part of, will be forgotten instantly with a Knicks early playoff exit.
Carmelo has the opportunity to quiet all his nay-sayers and critics in the media, and rid them of this notion he’s not a winner. Carmelo may not seem to make his teammates better on the court because of his high-volume shooting, but the simple fact remains that they feed off of his success, and they want to follow his lead.
The daunting question for Carmelo will be, can he transcend his current play on the court during the post-season as well? Can he achieve the goal of carrying the Knicks to the promise land, no matter the opponent, similar to what Nowitzki showcased in 2011? To be determined. But if Nowitzki was capable of pulling off a championship, I have no reason to believe Carmelo can’t.