Richard Jefferson: Carmelo Anthony 'Was Not Ready' for 2004 Olympics

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2020

The USA's Richard Jefferson (15), Lamar Odom (14) and Carmelo Anthony (8) react at the end of a 102-94 win over Spain in their quarterfinal match at the Olympic Indoor Hall during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)
DUSAN VRANIC/Associated Press

Carmelo Anthony might be a 10-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA player, but Richard Jefferson questioned whether he was prepared to assume a starring role on the 2004 United States team that won a bronze medal in the Summer Olympics.

During an appearance on UNINTERRUPTED's WRTS: After Party, Anthony expressed his frustration at being behind older players such as Jefferson. The discussion begins around the 14-minute mark (warning: video contains profanity).

Jefferson countered Wednesday on ESPN's The Jump that Anthony "was not ready" and added that the squad as a whole suffered from the dearth of international experience.

Anthony and LeBron James combined to play 139 minutes during the 2004 Olympics, a total that seems unthinkable now.

As Jefferson laid out, however, both stars were coming off their rookie seasons. Anthony was 20 years old and James only 19.

Nobody on Team USA's roster had ever appeared in the Olympics prior to 2004. Because of that, elevating the veterans made sense.

Some might point to the fact Dwyane Wade surpassed Anthony and James' minute total on his own (141) despite only having one year in the NBA under his belt. Wade benefited from a lack of available guards. He was one of three players under 6'7", so head coach Larry Brown had little choice but to lean more heavily on the Miami Heat star.

Anthony alluded to how he and LeBron felt slighted by their place in the Team USA depth chart and worked to prove any skeptics wrong. James was subsequently a member of the gold medal-winning teams in 2008 and 2012, while Anthony became the U.S. all-time leading scorer in the Olympics and has three gold medals.

Winning bronze in Athens served as a reality check for USA Basketball as a whole. The level of competition across the world had risen to the extent the United States couldn't throw together a random collection of talent and expect to roll to victory.