Carmelo Anthony is a great player. He has made six All-Star teams and is likely on his way to the Hall of Fame. However, like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and many other NBA stars, Anthony is destined to retire without a championship ring.
This is Anthony's 10th season in the NBA. He led his team to the playoffs in each of his first nine seasons, and his New York Knicks are almost certain to reach the postseason this year. However, Carmelo has only advanced past the first round one time, in 2009, when he and the Denver Nuggets made it to the Western Conference finals.
His lack of playoff success is attributable to both him, his teammates and his rivals.
Anthony is a potent offensive force, capable of scoring on defenses in a variety of ways. He leads the league with 28.6 points per game this season. Unfortunately, his dominance does not extend to other aspects of the game.
The Knicks forward has never averaged so much as eight rebounds or four assists per game. His ball movement was key to the Knicks' great start this season, but he is still prone to stretches where he will try to take over.
Anthony's most glaring deficiency, though, is his defense. According to Basketball-Reference.com, his career defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) is 107, hardly a number indicative of a shut-down defender.
Every championship team over the past 30 years has had a star player who can hurt you in multiple facets of the game, with the exception of the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs' best player, Dirk Nowitzki, was similar to Anthony—a deadly scorer who was limited in other areas.
But Anthony's production does not compare favorably to Nowitzki's. Though he is having one of his best statistical seasons, scoring over five points per game more than Nowitzki did in 2010-11, he is not nearly as efficient from the field:
Note: Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
Another facet of the game in which Anthony falls short of the elite players on championship teams is his effort. To put it simply, hustle plays by the Knicks forward are few and far between. Anthony runs back on defense on occasion, but is equally likely to jog back as he complains to a referee about not getting a call.
Teams take their cue from their best player, so it's not surprising that the Knicks' defensive effort is inconsistent. Anthony has not demonstrated the desire necessary to lead a team to a championship on both ends of the floor.
Another obstacle in Melo's path to the promised land is his supporting cast in New York. Teams that win an NBA championship usually have at least two Hall of Fame-caliber players in their prime.
The need for at least two superstars is magnified by the distribution of talent in the league today. Miami has its star-studded trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Oklahoma City Thunder have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook locked into multi-year deals, the San Antonio Spurs are anchored by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and the Los Angeles Clippers have their own dynamic duo in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Anthony is the only player on the Knicks roster playing at an elite level. The once-explosive Amar'e Stoudemire is on the downside of his career after suffering knee and back injuries over the past two years.
Tyson Chandler was the Defensive Player of the Year last season and made his first All-Star appearance in February, but he is far from an elite offensive player. Jason Kidd, who turns 40 this month, is way past his prime.
The Knicks do not have the salary cap space or young, tradable assets necessary to acquire a great player before the summer of 2015, when Chandler, Anthony and Stoudemire's contracts expire.
At that point, Carmelo will be 31 years old and will not have many top-flight seasons left. It is unlikely that he will be able to pair up with another superstar, either in New York or elsewhere.
There are a limited number of dominant players in the league, and the new collective bargaining agreement also made it more difficult for players to dictate their destinations or for teams to absorb multiple maximum salary contracts.
Carmelo has a big ego, and it is hard to imagine him accepting a role as the second or third option on a team when his skills fade.
The final major barrier to Anthony winning a championship is his old pal LeBron James.
Many of the game's great players failed to fulfill their championship aspirations because they happened to play at the same time as a transcendent star.
Elgin Baylor's nemesis was Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and John Stockton were all stopped by the same man: Michael Jordan.
As great of a scorer as Anthony is, James is a far superior all-around player. He has significantly more talent around him and is a year younger than Anthony, meaning the Heat star will always stand in his way.
Carmelo will be recalled as one of the greatest scorers of his generation and will probably win some big playoff series before he is done. But like so many great players before him, Anthony will also be remembered for coming up short of the ultimate prize.