If there is one player on the U.S.A. Basketball team who embodies the "Redeem Team" mantra it's Carmelo Anthony. If you'll recall, Anthony actually guaranteed that the U.S. would win the gold medal in Athens. When they didn't no player on the team took a bigger PR hit than Anthony. He was called out in the press by Larry Brown, and acknowledged that most of his time in Greece was spent in misery.
The interesting thing is that I think that the Olympics mean more to Anthony than any player on the team. I actually got to talk to him for a couple minutes in Greece, before the tournament started, and I asked him to compare how he felt before the NCAA Tournament, to how he was feeling leading up to the Athens Games. I remember his response because as soon as I asked the question, he flashed that trademark smile. "Man," he said. "Compared to the Olympics, the NCAA Tournament is like an AAU Tournament."
It was clear that the Games meant something to him.
So, as I watched him struggle to even get on the court during those next few weeks in Greece, I knew it had to be killing him inside. The image of him sitting on the bench, with a towel over his head, as the U.S. lost to Argentina in the semi-finals, is burned into my brain.
What many people never saw or even wrote about is that instead of sulking off the court when the '04 semifinal ended, Anthony actually stayed on the floor and escorted almost every one of his teammates back into the locker room. After seeing that scene play out, I was sure that if he ever got the chance to compete in the Olympics again, he would do everything in his power to change the outcome.
That's why I don't think it's a coincidence that he plays so well in these international events, and I have no doubt that he will have one of his best games of this tournament, later today against Spain. Each time he suits up for an Olympic game, it's his chance to show everybody who doubted him in 2004 that they were wrong.
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