Because the NBA is a star-driven league, and because its players work on both sides of the ball, the stars lend themselves to more "who's better?" arguments than NFL or MLB-types. You can't reasonably compare Justin Verlander to Albert Pujols, or Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson, but a discussion about the relative merits of Chris Paul as compared with Tim Duncan seems valid.
One of the better basketball minds we have in our business is SI.com's Zach Lowe, and he entertained us all by ranking NBA players one through 100 last summer. His number 20 was New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. And, uh, his number 20 showed up to the SI.com offices earlier this week.
Number 20, shockingly, doesn't think he's number 20.
SI.com: Let me put myself on the line. This summer, I ranked the top 100 players in the NBA, and I ranked you 20th. I got piles and piles of hate mail from fans.
Anthony: You can't do that. You can't do ratings like that. I don't see 20 guys better than me.
SI.com: Yeah, people thought I was crazy.
Anthony: Me too.
SI.com: But 20th in the NBA is still pretty damn good!
Anthony: That's terrible [laughing]. For me.
SI.com: I think if the defense comes together in New York, and you're part of that, that ranking could change.
Anthony: If the defense comes together or not, there's still not 20 guys better than me.
SI.com: I ranked Kevin Garnett above you — his defense is just too good to overlook.
Anthony: So if I would've gone to Boston, on a defensive-minded team, then what would you have said? That I'm a top-five player? It's a lose-lose situation for me. But you're entitled to your opinion. Everyone makes mistakes.
Actually, it's a lose-lose situation for Zach. Because while I have no idea where I'd specifically rank Anthony amongst the NBA's best players, 20 sounds about right.
Anthony, I'm sorry, contributes comparatively little beyond his 25 points per game. Twenty-five points per game, to echo Lowe, is pretty damn good; but Carmelo doesn't do much else. And it's not just that the other side of the ball matters, it's that all-around play matters. And while Carmelo is brilliant at putting the ball in the hole, so many better all-around players do all-around things to a collective degree that should probably have Carmelo ranked, well, 20th.