Carmelo Anthony could have followed the paths of his closest NBA friends LeBron James and Chris Paul and skipped the Olympics. But Anthony saw an opportunity to be a leader for this team, and do something no men’s basketball player has ever done before.
Anthony is all in for Team USA, and will go for a record third Olympic Gold Medal in Rio de Janeiro. “I have a chance to do something special here,” Anthony said.
Spain, Lithuania, France and Serbia are among the teams that will challenge the U.S. squad, which is laden with All-Stars, but not the crème de la crème.
No James or Paul. No Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook. No James Harden or Damian Lillard. But Anthony — 32 and the elder statesman on the team — is there, as he has since 2004. He’s, once again, seeking the kind of team success he craves with the Knicks, who missed the playoffs the past three years.
“I get a chance to go out there, kind of be the leader of the team, lead these guys,” Anthony said. “To me it’s about going over there and having fun, getting that fun feeling back and enjoyment back — and trying to get another gold medal.”
Anthony helped the USA win gold in 2008 and 2012. He will be the first men’s basketball player to appear in four Olympics, and hopes to be the first to win gold three times.
That was a determining factor in Anthony deciding to play.
Anthony was waffling after his friends backed out and due to concerns regarding the outbreak of the Zika virus in Rio. But his Olympic teammates, including Kevin Durant and Kyle Lowry, and Anthony’s college coach Jim Boeheim, a U.S. Team assistant, reached out and urged him to play.
“The guys were talking, ‘Man you should do it. This is your Olympics. This is your time: four Olympics, three gold medals. You should take advantage of this opportunity,’ ” Anthony said. “Once the guys started reaching out and telling me that, it felt good to hear my colleagues want me to have that experience.”
Anthony has embraced the role as leader, following in the footsteps of Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant before him. Everyone associated with the U.S. Team has talked about how Anthony is the unquestioned leader. He addressed the team before Olympic training camp began in Las Vegas, and stressed how much work it will take to bring home the gold.
“My message to the guys was that this is not going to be easy,” Anthony said. “You can’t expect that because we’re the best players in the world we’re going to win the gold medal. We should win the gold medal but we have a lot of work to do.”
Anthony and Durant are the only players returning from the 2012 team that won gold in London. The rest of the roster consists of Lowry, Kryie Irving, Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, Draymond Green, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Harrison Barnes and big men DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan.
Anthony called it “a new era,” but it’s also the end of one. Anthony said this will be his final Olympics. It’s also the last for coach Mike Krzyzewski — who will be succeeded by Gregg Popovich.
“They’ll come together,” Krzyzewski said. “They’re really outstanding players. Each team has its own personality that we’ve coached for the United States. This one, I think has the capability of being as good a defensive team as we’ve had because we have a lot of interchangeable parts.”
Managing director Jerry Colangelo didn’t want to talk about who wasn’t on the team, but he’s happy Anthony committed for a final time and hopes that it ends with him wearing gold again.
“It’s important to Carmelo because he knows this is something that no one else has done,” Colangelo said.