The basketball version of Captain America is an NCAA champion who has been criticized for not reaching those heights in the NBA.
The hardwood Captain America, 32, could be vacationing with his wife and resting the assorted ailments that come with 13 NBA seasons instead of working through the offseason.
So, why is New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony preparing for his fourth trip to the Summer Olympics?
“A lot of people told me, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it, for what?’ ” Anthony said. “I actually enjoy it. I’ve been a part of USA Basketball since I was a junior in high school. I actually enjoy it, and it’s also an opportunity to go get another gold medal.”
Team USA is composed of leaders on their respective NBA teams. But as the team prepares to leave the desert to play a series of exhibition games before heading to Rio de Janeiro, Anthony has emerged as the leader among leaders.
“We have leaders,” said coach Mike Krzyzewski, citing Kevin Durant’s leadership by example as one method. “Carmelo’s been the main one.”
Krzyzewski added, “Melo is still a great player,” not a fading star and simply a mentor.
Team USA defeated Argentina 111-74 on Friday night at T-Moble Arena. The U.S. team next will play China on Sunday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Anthony’s commitment to the Olympic team, given all the reasons he could have declined, resonated with those associated with USA Basketball.
Anthony is the only player on Team USA who was a part of the 2004 team in Athens that won bronze.
Since the disappointment in Greece, Anthony has won two gold medals.
“Now I get a chance to kind of be the leader of the team, lead these guys and kind of enjoy it,” Anthony said. “For me, it’s about going out there and having fun, getting that fun feeling back and trying to get another gold medal.”
There is always turnover on Olympic teams for various reasons. Some players back out due to injury or not wanting to risk an injury while looking for a new contract. Others simply want torest after a long season and spend time with their families.
But the players who do return are expected to help tutor the newcomers in the ways of international competition and lead the way.
“Carmelo right now falls into that role, and I think he’s done a great job,” said USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo. “He committed himself to come back again – that’s a real stretch for a guy that’s got a lot of mileage in terms of his game. But he thrives so much in international basketball, I’d do the same thing if I were him because you want to have fun playing the game and he has that freedom to do that.”
Anthony’s leadership is more than vocal. He has the international experience to back up his words.
Beginning in 2001, Anthony has played on 12 USA Basketball teams, scoring 1,100 career points (15.3 average) and grabbing 289 rebounds (4.0) in 72 international games.
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who will make his first appearance in the Olympics, has found Anthony to be a calming influence in practices.
“I think he’s been great,” Cousins said. “He’s a very experienced guy, he’s an old head on this team, he’s seen it all. He’s been on the winning teams, he’s been on the losing teams, so that’s definitely a voice we listen to in the locker room.”
Having experienced disappointment in the Olympics, Anthony won’t be shy about speaking up if he senses Team USA slipping.
“It comes down to being honest with people,” Anthony said. “And I think that’s what most of my colleagues love about me. I’m honest with them, whether they like it or not. I keep it straight up with them.”