They were both selected in the same draft. Recently, they had played against each other in a high-profile scholastic contest that garnered a lot of attention. These two young stars possessed special and distinctive skills on the basketball court.
The rivalry between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony was expected to be the top individual competition since Magic and Bird.
Anthony and James meet for the 15th time in their careers on Sunday, with little attention, but unlike the portrayal of Bird and Johnson’s connection in a recent Broadway production.
After playing together on an All-Star college team in an international tournament, Anthony and James first met in a 2001 developmental camp for USA, where Johnson raved about how much he liked Bird.
The following year, Anthony’s team participated in a high school showcase game where the best senior player in the country (Anthony) competed against the best junior player in the country (James), creating a game that Anthony’s team was likely to win.
The Cleveland Cavaliers selected LeBron James as the overall first pick, and the Denver Nuggets chose Carmelo Anthony as the overall third pick in the 2003 NBA draft. After finishing his high school career, James spent a year at Syracuse University.
The match between the two teams was intense and featured skilled players on both sides. Both teams had successful scorers and made top draft picks. The rivalry was expected to attract a lot of attention.
The teams switched players back and forth, much to the displeasure of the fans who were inspired by the previous Olympic gold medal-winning team. Both players continued their careers together, finding similarities along the way.
The competition, nevertheless, always felt contrived–unnatural.
The initial match between them would be an ideal indication of how the competition would evolve throughout the years.
The NBA’s first game against each other in November was a high-hype event, but it turned out to be a meaningless game for both players, which failed to make a real impact.
James only managed to score a paltry 27% from the field, with only 7 points. However, he did contribute 7 assists and 11 rebounds in his 41 minutes of play. On the other hand, Anthony scored 14 points, but only played for 39 minutes and shot 17-for-6.
The Nuggets emerged victorious in that game, with a final score of 93-89.
The rivalry between Bird and Magic was already existing, and it was larger than themselves. They started off strong because they were so thrust into this rivalry.
The rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics was already established. They were the most successful franchises in NBA history, having had some memorable battles for the NBA championship. Bird and Magic continued this rivalry, and there were also individual player subplots that added to the excitement.
Now, regarding the highly thrilling matchup, there are two teams who are relatively new and have not had many encounters on the court. The reason for this is that Anthony and James were only associated with Cleveland and Denver respectively.
Both of them had the strongest desire to do something multiple times, knowing that in order to go through the championship and win against the other, they would have to go through both.
The Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Lakers, 4-2, in the 2008-09 season. Since his rookie year, Anthony has played in the playoffs every season but has only made it out of the first round once. Anthony hasn’t been as “successful” as James in the playoffs, as LeBron has lost in the NBA Finals twice and has a championship ring, while Anthony does not.
It appears highly likely that there could be a first-round matchup this year, with the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat, including both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, playing against each other in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
If the two can play each other with greater stakes, the rivalry may intensify, but until then the matchup will be second-rate.
Despite Anthony’s teams not achieving the same level of success as James’ teams, Anthony has also failed to acquire the personal recognition that LeBron has.
In the NBA, both athletes were in their inaugural season when James secured the Rookie of the Year accolade and has subsequently been selected as an All-Star three additional times. James has been included in the All-Defensive First Team on three occasions, whereas Anthony faces scrutiny for not displaying a genuine commitment to his defensive duties. Throughout his professional career, James has consistently achieved higher averages in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks per game, and also boasts a superior shooting efficiency compared to Anthony.
Anthony has outscored James 14 times in the past 10 meetings. He has never won the MVP award, but he has a good chance of winning it again this year. In fact, he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting only once in his career, which was in 2010 when he finished sixth.
Ultimately, do these players truly believe in the concept that they are competitors?
In the NBA, the league where the best players team up with each other to create super teams, it has become quite common for the elite players to become good friends and have known each other for long periods of time. They have not been criticized for wanting to drive competitively and have a strong desire to win a championship together in a collaborative effort. This recent phenomenon of superstars creating teams has made the league a place where players are “buddy-buddy” with each other, whether it is for worse or better.
If James and Anthony do not perceive themselves as competitors, then how can the public perceive it in that manner?
Anthony and James are clearly two talented basketball players, who definitely bring a lot of star power and entertainment to the game. It is enjoyable to watch them play together on the court.
However, the competition that was promoted by the NBA when they initially joined the league never truly expanded beyond that.