By Steve Silverman
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The Dream Team documentary currently airing on NBA.TV has done more than bring back memories of how a team with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird came together and dominated the world in a way that has never been seen on the basketball court.
There’s more to it than that. The talent level that was at incredible heights was obvious from the moment that NBA stars announced they would play for the United States in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. But it was the way the team came together off the court and generally liked each other that makes the story worth telling.
Everyone knows about the rivalry/friendship between Bird and Johnson dating back to their college days at Indiana State and Michigan State. But who knew that Bird and Patrick Ewing had developed such a strong relationship and had so much in common?
The on-court magic was obvious; the back story is far more interesting.
Fast forward to the U.S. Olympic team in 2012. The talent level again will be incredibly high and LeBron James is sure to be the center piece the way Jordan was 20 years ago. But perhaps the next best player on the team will be the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony.
As James’ star has risen following his first NBA championship, heads shake and questions are asked when Anthony’s name is raised.
There are no issues when it comes to talent or offensive ability, but somehow it has not come together in a Knicks uniform. It’s his mindset that has led fans to think of Anthony as a player who wants to get his numbers and not a player who is thinking of the team first.
James is now thought of as the game’s best player who gets his teammates involved so his team can play basketball at the highest level. Prior to the Heat winning the championship, James was perceived as a player who did not rise up at the game’s biggest moments.
He was once again about to take another round of criticism as the Heat trailed the Boston Celtics three games to two in the Eastern Conference Finals. With the Celtics poised to take the series in Game 6 in Boston, James played a monster game that helped turn around perception. He followed that up with another brilliant performance in Game 7 that allowed the Heat to win the series and advance to the Finals.
He did not waste that opportunity as Miami ended the Finals in five games.
It doesn’t take long for a player to change his perception. If James can do it in Miami, Anthony can do it in New York.
It does not mean that the Knicks will win a championship next year, but Anthony has to become a player who facilitates for his teammates as well as gets his own numbers.
Playing with James in the Olympics should provide Anthony a road map of how that is done. All Anthony has to do is play as hard as he can and keep his eyes wide open. He knows how James operates because they are friends and competitors. But he’ll get a different perception when they join forces on July 5th in Las Vegas as they prepare for the Olympics.
Anthony is not some selfish, point-gouging lout who is destined to have an unfulfilled career. There’s no reason the Knicks won’t be able to make a significant climb up the Eastern Conference ladder next season.
All Anthony has to do is learn the lesson that James teaches. School is about to start.
What will Carmelo learn from LeBron this summer at the Olympics? Be heard in the comments below…