It has been a big summer for Carmelo Anthony.
Syracuse’s most iconic basketball alumnus has joined the NBA’s most iconic franchise in hopes of ending his long professional career with a championship. Now that we have gotten all the hyperbole out of the way, let’s talk about the impact of Anthony signing with the Lakers, how he fits on the team and the significance an NBA title could mean to a school synonymous with basketball.
In case you hadn’t heard, Anthony is headed to Los Angeles to join his good friend LeBron James for the 2021-22 season. The 37-year old Anthony is entering his 19th NBA season with a Hall of Fame resume.
He is poised to pass Moses Malone and Shaquille O’Neal on the all-time scoring this season. A 10-time All-Star and one of the greatest U.S. Olympic basketball players ever, Anthony has little left to prove before he decides to retire.
The biggest thing missing from that impressive list of accomplishments: NBA champion. Melo has never even played in an NBA Finals before. He came close with the Nuggets in 2009, but lost in the Western Conference Finals to Kobe Bryant’s Lakers.
After two productive years in Portland, Anthony arrives in Los Angeles as a critical player.
LA has dedicated pretty much all of its salary cap to its new big three of James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. It has turned to veterans playing on minimum salary deals to fill out the roster.
Like Anthony, Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore and Wayne Ellington are all at least 31 years old.
One of the most obvious issues facing the Lakers’ core is a lack of shooting. That’s where Anthony comes in. He shot a career-high 40.9 percent from 3 in 2020-21, knocking down nearly two per game.
He is also a reliable free-throw shooter, converting 89 percent of his attempts last season. His ability to space the floor and hit open jumpers will be critical for a team with two ball-dominant players like James and Westbrook.
In addition to carrying the pressure that comes with joining a title contender featuring the star of a generation, Anthony has the potential to make some history for his alma mater. A title in 2022 would make him the first player to win an NBA Finals from Syracuse.
Now, that’s not entirely true. There is a weird amount of history between the Orange and the Purple and Gold.
Two other Syracuse grads won titles with the Lakers. Dion Waiters was actually part of the Los Angeles squad in 2020. However, he did not play at all in the series against the Heat. Marty Brynes won a championship, which strangely enough was also with the Lakers, but played just one minute in the 1980 NBA Finals.
Those are the only two players with rings from SU.
Sure, they were on the team and I am not trying to take that away from them, but Anthony could be the first to win the Larry O’Bryan Trophy as a meaningful contributor. Barring an injury or a steep decline in his playing ability, Anthony should feature pretty heavily in the Lakers’ lineup.
Thinking about the storied history of Syracuse men’s basketball, it is hard to believe that only four alumni have even reached the NBA Finals.
Perhaps this just underlines truly how hard it is to win a championship. Still, it would be satisfying to see a former Syracuse player on the court as the confetti falls.
Especially if it were Anthony.
He delivered the Orange its only national title in men’s basketball. It feels fitting that he would be the one to add another notch in the proverbial Syracuse belt.
On top of that, this could be Anthony’s last season. He saw his playing time decline sharply this past season to 24.5 minutes per game, and averaged just 13.4 ppg, tied for the lowest of his career.
If he were to win a title, it would be the perfect way for him to close his professional basketball career. He has certainly had his ups and downs in the NBA, but he is more deserving of going out as a champion.