The NBA is a superstar-driven league from any standpoint. The superstar fills up the stands and he makes his team a contender. There are a select-few players in the league who fit in this category— two in particular are LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
It goes without saying that both of these players hold indispensable value to their team because they are just that good. But who is more valuable?
Now, before we quickly jump to what seems like an easy answer, we need to establish one important thing: this is not the same question as "Who is the better player?" If it were, well, let's just say we would not be here very long.
Instead, think of the question in the manner as some define an MVP award (the player most valuable to their team, not necessarily the best overall player), except in this case the question is more definitively steered in that direction.
While we are all naturally inclined to keep LeBron as our answer, Anthony must put up a case against LeBron simply from the fact that his team leads the Eastern Conference. Yes, ahead of LeBron's Miami Heat by two games.
Alright, so what? The Knicks are leading the conference, but nothing is certain to remain the same.
True, but the Knicks definitely would not be just as successful today without him. The Knicks do not defeat the Nets without Anthony's 45 points, they do not beat the Lakers without his 30, they don't topple the Nuggets without his 34 and they certainly do not edge LeBron and the Heat without his 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Melo's consistent scoring production is incredible and his ability to absolutely break out spreads throughout the team.
However, this is just one side of the coin.
In order to fully assess a player, you cannot solely look at the good they provide. We could do that for a lot of players in the league and make them look flawless. Thus, we need to look at his downside, and Anthony has a strong flaw— his contribution to team chemistry.
As seen through the games this year, yes, it is true that the Knicks would not be where they are without Anthony because his offensive production is what carries them. Yet, this same exact offensive production does not necessarily benefit other players, but instead deteriorates chemistry, an essential aspect to analyze when judging a player's value to his team.
This is where James puts himself ahead of Anthony in terms of value.
James has the ability to elevate everyone else's game. He manages to get the most out of every player. So when we go back to the ultimate deciding factor: Whose teammates does it hurt more when you take the player off the team?
Well, we can say for sure that the role players on the Heat would not be playing to their full potential without their floor general. In Anthony's case, there's a chance the players who were initially around before his arrival may play better when he is out of the picture.
Anthony's history of being a team player is far from rich. The easiest instance to identify this comes from looking at the trade which brought him from Denver to New York. Sure, the Nuggets are technically doing worse without Anthony, but notice the before and after effect.
The players on the Nuggets are able to complement each other because no one is running a one-man show. Anthony, on the other hand, has run the one-man show on both teams and it did not help any player.
The point is this: Melo hinders the growth of other players and turns his team into a virtual one-man offense. He not only lacks the ability to elevate his teammates' game, but actually limits their capabilities. Some fans go the distance to call him a team destroyer.
Anthony does bring the team forward; however, because he is hurting his teammates at the same time, it's like going two steps forward and one step back.
The fact that he disrupts the chemistry between his teammates makes him lose his case, especially when compared to LeBron's pedigree. So yes, it seems as though LeBron walks away the winner yet again.
Anthony is without a doubt a one-of-a-kind player, but falls short when challenging LeBron for the title of most valuable to the team.