In case you missed it, Rodger Sherman penned an interesting piece over at The Ringer last week on our beloved Carmelo Anthony following he and his Oklahoma City Thunder’s disappointing season and early exit from the NBA playoffs. In his writing, Sherman suggested that Carmelo had the most impressive single-season in the sport of college basketball in his one season at Syracuse in 2002-2003. We’re all very familiar with what happened that season,
so no need rehash anything so here’s a photo below to remind everyone else what happened.
While the underlying themes of the piece weren’t focused around his one season at Syracuse, we’re sure as hell going to make sure that’s the focal point in this post. Of Carmelo, Sherman said:
“On two stages, Carmelo has proved himself as one of the most important players in basketball. He had the most impressive single-season college basketball career in the sport’s history, showing up at Syracuse in 2002 and then instantly powering the program to its only national championship. He averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds per game, and in the NCAA tournament led the Orange past Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, respectively, en route to cutting down the nets. To date, he remains the greatest one-and-done college basketball has ever seen, and “one-and-done” wasn’t even a thing at the time.”
Interesting. Of course, Carmelo has always said he wanted to do one year in college before heading to the NBA even before the one-and-done rule was in place and we couldn’t be happier about that. But it is fascinating and hard to argue against the notion that he had the most impressive single season in the history of college basketball and that he remains as the greatest one-and-done.
Do note that that doesn’t necessarily mean he had the best single-season, just the most impressive.
The case could be made for guys like Kevin Durant at Texas, Michael Beasley at Kansas State, Kevin Love at UCLA, John Wall at Kentucky and even Greg Oden at Ohio State, but none of those guys led their team to a title. If anyone had a more impressive single-season than Carmelo in college it probably has to be Anthony Davis for the way he impacted the game, took the nation by storm and lead Kentucky all the way to a national title. And had Fab Melo just played, Syracuse might have had something to say about that 2012 championship game.
Even in the scenario where Derrick Rose makes his free throws and Memphis wins a title in ‘08, he still probably falls just short of what Carmelo accomplished at Syracuse in his lone year.
At Syracuse, Carmelo really averaged a double-double and gave out buckets like there was no tomorrow. He hit mid-range jumpers in ‘03 as if it were going out of style in 2018. Our guy actually scored 22 points a game. But it wasn’t even the amount of points he scored, it was the way in which he did it. Carmelo always had a move and embarrassed many a player.
While the way in which Carmelo scored the ball might not mean he had the greatest single-season, it does give credence to the way in which he impacted the game. Carmelo wasn’t the defensive stalwart that Anthony Davis was (we managed to get Melo and defense in the same sentence!), but just his presence on the floor alone commanded enough attention. We’ve never really seen anyone have the ability to score the ball the way Carmelo did. He’s one of the greatest one-on-one players that’s ever walked this earth. You simply couldn’t check him, you’d just have to pick your poison.
All of this to say that the most impressive single-season and greatest one-and-done is probably an Anthony. But I’ll be fully biased here and say it’s Carmelo for the sole fact that he came to Syracuse and led a program that had zero titles to its name and was historically remembered more for what it hadn’t accomplished in the NCAA Tournament than what it had. Carmelo led a team that nobody listed in its preseason top-25 all the way to the promised land while annexing the Big 12 in the process. Not to take anything away for the type of year that Anthony Davis had at Kentucky, but Big Blue Nation has been a staple in the college game for some time, a historic blue blood that has long had a tradition of winning ways. The wildcats had won plenty of titles before Anthony Davis ever stepped foot on campus — 7 to be exact, including one over Syracuse in 1996.
While the 1996 Syracuse team made an unexpected run to the title game, previous Syracuse teams — fair or unfair — always seemed to fall short. Jim Boeheim and the then Orangemen had a national title in its sights before Keith Smart hit a game-winner in 1987 championship game.
You have to remember that there were plenty that used to suggest that Jim Boeheim couldn’t win the big one. Winning a national championship playing a 2-3 zone just couldn’t be done. A great deal changed after April 7, 2003 when Carmelo came in and elevated Syracuse to a title. Jim Boeheim’s name — long synonymous with Syracuse — has since become identical with 2-3 zone and coaches are now playing more zone in the college game today than ever before. While Carmelo isn’t the lone factor here, that probably doesn’t shift without him.
What do you think? Did Carmelo have the greatest single-season in the sport of college basketball’s history? Does he remain as the greatest one and done in college ball? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.