Jim Boeheim made headlines on Tuesday for his post-Olympics press conference, for the statement that former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony is "unlikely to win an NBA title."
Taken as a standalone quote, it is easy to see it as a shot from Boeheim. A very strange shot, as the two remain famously close after bringing Syracuse its only NCAA title in 2003, and have both been a part of three Olympic gold medal-winning teams.
Of course, it wasn't a shot at all. It was a point made during a very complimentary bit about Anthony's career. He is the winningest American basketball player in Olympics history, and has an NCAA title to his resume, and as Jim Boeheim says, has made every team that he's on better. From Syracuse.com:
"He's unlikely to win an NBA title,'' Boeheim said. "He's never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title. As a player, all you can do is try to make your team better and every team he's been on he's made them a lot better. Denver hadn't done anything prior to him getting there and he took them into the playoffs. They weren't going to beat the Lakers or the Spurs. In those years, they won the championship most of the time.
"But he's always made his team better,'' added Boeheim. "It's obvious. You look back on your total basketball experience and he had a great high school team, he won the NCAA championship and he's won three gold medals in the Olympics. That's a pretty good resume.''
But of course, the obvious headline-grabbing quote there is the "he's unlikely to win a title" line.
As NBC Sports' Rob Dauster effectively sums up, this is a good example of why athletes and coaches get frustrated with the media.
But here’s the thing: focusing on that one line totally ignores the point that Boeheim was making in the interview. As always, context is critical, and if you read the story that Waters wrote, it’s pretty obvious the message that Boeheim was trying to get across. Melo is not going to leave a legacy in the NBA beyond being a guy that got a lot of buckets. It just didn’t work out for him that way. Ask Karl Malone how that feels.
But by going to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, by becoming the first men’s basketball player to win three Olympic gold medals, Melo did solidify himself a legacy.
He’s the most accomplished and, arguably, the best player that Team USA has ever had. That’s not going to make up for the rings that are missing on his fingers, but it does cement his place in the history of the game.
That was Boeheim’s point, and it was a salient, intelligent point, one that complimented Melo for the success that he had in international play.
The quote made waves big enough on Tuesday and Wednesday that Boeheim took to his little-used Twitter feed to weigh in.
And of course, even if it is taken out of context, Jim Boeheim saying that 'Melo will probably never win a title follows the general narrative of Anthony's career. He didn't get over the hump in Denver, he's had mixed success in New York, but he seems very happy being the star of the Knicks, he's had an amazing NBA career, and of course, he brought a title to Central New York, something no one else has accomplished before or since. He's also made over $176 million in his career, and has another nearly $79 million coming to him through the 2018-19 season.
Even if Carmelo doesn't successfully chase down a ring before he retires, it is hard to argue that his basketball career has been anything but a success.