Some very big names came into the league six years ago: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. Each of them have had success. Each of them have been all-stars and made the playoffs. One of them already has a championship, but perhaps the “already” is no longer called for.
These three superstars are now moving into their sixth season in the NBA, which is probably the beginning of the middle of their careers. This is their time to shine. Obviously, they are doing just that – shining. LeBron is arguably the brightest star in the NBA galaxy. However, he doesn’t have a ring. Mr. Wade does.
When we sit down and compare the careers of the cream of the 2003 crop, who fares best?
Accomplishments: NBA Championship, Finals MVP, Olympic Gold Medal
Between Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Dwayne Wade, there is only one championship ring and it belongs to Dwayne Wade. With Shaquille O’Neal’s help, Wade reached the top of the NBA mountain in 2006. He was a mad-man in the Finals and thoroughly deserved the MVP honor he was awarded for that series.
He’s been an All-Star many times over now in addition to winning a scoring title in the 2008-2009 season. His defense is killer and his skills widely recognized.
The downside of the Wade story is the steep decline of the team after their championship and after O’Neal’s departure for Phoenix. Injuries hobbled him for more than one season and only last year did we see the “old Wade” make a return to the top of the talent charts in the NBA.
It’s hard to argue that a Finals MVP and NBA champ has had less success than someone who has neither of these accolades, but LeBron James is a special case.
Accomplishments: League MVP, All-Star MVP (x2), NBA Finals Appearance, Olympic Gold Medal
Joining one of the NBA’s backwater teams, LeBron James instantly changed sports in Ohio. His team’s record improved by something like 20 games in his rookie season. He has played in three conference championships in his six seasons, making the Finals once.
He’s been the All-Star Game MVP twice and has provided the league with a Jordan-like marketability once again. The NBA’s ostensible “reputation problem” (what major sport doesn’t have one of these?) is considerably mitigated by the return of a famous number 23 who dunks like a legend, reps Nike, shoots, defends, and smiles at the camera.
Not only is he fun and funny and good with the media, but his highlight reel seems inexhaustible. The man is so extremely athletically gifted that it’s amazing he hasn’t won a championship, by himself. But here we come to the point: he hasn’t won a championship.
Though LeBron James has been named the NBA MVP, an accolade which Wade has yet to achieve, King James does not wear a ring. If he were crowned champion next year, there would be no choice but to give him his due as the most accomplished player of the 2003 class.
Accomplishments: All-Star, Conference Finals, Olympic Gold Medal
We’ve got to include Carmelo in this discussion. Anthony has not played in the Finals, but did see his first conference championship series this year. He hasn’t been the MVP of anything, but has been his team’s go to guy for years. He is a popular player, though he’s got his critics too.
Some may say that he has been an under-achiever, but this seems unfair. His had his share of drama, which might be best forgotten, but he’s had his share of success too.
An All-Star several times, he is always at the top of the voting columns for small forward in the west. You must be doing something right if you beat out Dirk Nowitzki for All-Star votes, right?
Regardless of his career, however, the real reason to include Carmelo Anthony in this discussion is his potential to match the achievements of his counterparts. This is a player with a really big talent, who has taken some time to settle into his NBA game, but who promises to continue improving.
Why couldn’t he win a championship? Why couldn’t he have a season where he hits his stride, plays to his full potential in front of a good supporting cast, and wins the NBA MVP award?
I don’t see a reason why not, unless Dwayne Wade and LeBron James are set on doing the same thing…