Be like LeBron? Not Carmelo

Carmelo Anthony doesn't mind having the spotlight shine on a fellow rookie taken two slots higher.

Originally Published: November 5, 2003
By Marc J. Spears | Special to ESPN.com

Carmelo Anthony
INDIANAPOLIS -- What's the adjustment been like from college to the NBA? Do you think you will be the NBA's Rookie of the Year? What do you think about all the LeBron-Carmelo hype?

Every day from NBA city to NBA city, Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets' heralded rookie forward, will be asked those same questions over and over this season. But on Tuesday morning, the day before his big matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on ESPN, Anthony got a new question that made him say, "Hmmm."

Yo 'Melo, have you ever thought about what it would be like for you right now if there was no LeBron?

"Man, no. I have never thought about that," Anthony said. "I never thought about that. I don't know what it would be like. I couldn't imagine it."

From a commercial with ESPN to one with Michael Jordan himself to a third with several NBA stars with EA Sports, Anthony is getting strong national attention. In Denver, the former Syracuse star's picture is on billboards and on the sides of buses, and he has his own weekly radio show on a popular rap and R&B station on Fridays. He has done interviews with everyone from ESPN The Magazine to Sports Illustrated for Kids to Maxim to GQ to Honey. And his No. 15 jersey has been a hot seller from the Mile High City to his old stomping grounds of Syracuse.

"When they first started coming on, I was watching every time," Anthony said about his commercials. "Now that I've seen them a couple times, I blow them off ... All of them were a lot of work. The EA Sports one was kind of fun for the game NBA Live. That was fun because a lot of [players] were there."

But even with all of the attention that Anthony is getting, the attention James is getting is more than twofold.

Following the Nuggets' shootaround Tuesday in preparation for a game against the Indiana Pacers, there were two sports writers from Denver, one sports writer and one television reporter from Indianapolis and one sports writer from Akron there to talk to Anthony about mostly the Cleveland game and himself.

So just what kind of media following did "King James" have on the eve of the anticipated matchup with Anthony and the Cavaliers' home opener? Try about 40 media members. Oh yeah, around 300 are credentialed for Wednesday night's game, too.

While Anthony doesn't have to worry about his bank account any time soon, James' NBA arrival may have cost him several million dollars. Anthony, however, isn't worried about that since having less attention than James is definitely priceless to him.

"It's good," said Anthony, about James getting more attention. "I like it better now than if he wasn't in the league. If it were just me, everyone would be with me. If I were just here by myself, everyone would be by me all day, every day. I can just chill and play."

An argument could be made that a college player hasn't received this much attention since Patrick Ewing came out of Georgetown in 1985.

Everybody is talking about him. I can just focus on playing. I'm not saying that he can't focus on playing, but I can just go out there and play my game.
Carmelo Anthony on LeBron James
Anthony has a Magic Johnson smile, the trendy cornrows and a cool demeanor that makes any reporter, fan or Joe Schmo feel comfortable around him. And one major key to his ability to already score at will in the NBA, besides his talent, is his unique confidence that only the great ones have. Evidence of that came from Pacers forward Ron Artest, considered one of the NBA's toughest defenders, who mentioned Anthony and Celtics All-Star guard Paul Pierce in the same sentence as guys toughest to guard.

"He's a pro, definitely a pro. No question," said Artest of Anthony.

The Nuggets also entered tonight's game against Cleveland with a 2-2 record, including wins over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs and the title-contending Sacramento Kings. The 0-3 Cavaliers need a victory in the worst way.

"We can fight for the eighth spot [for the playoffs in the Western Conference]," said Anthony, who was averaging a team-best 13.8 points and 5.5 rebounds after a poor 1-for-13 shooting and zero-rebound performance in a loss at Indiana on Tuesday. "That's something I've been thinking about and [my teammates] have been thinking about, too."

At just 19 years old, Anthony has all the ingredients to take the NBA by storm. But an 18-year-old kid straight out of high school with the ability to pass like Magic and dunk like Jordan has garnered the attention from the most ardent NBA follower to the casual sports fan.

Anthony is far from being jealous. He's happy about his place among today's NBA rookies. The 6-foot-8, 230-pounder receives a lot of media attention, but not enough to drive him crazy. He gets recognized everywhere in Denver, but he can still live his life and go where he needs to go thanks to the city's love for the Denver Broncos and Colorado Avalanche. He's getting paid millions from endorsements but doesn't have the pressure of a $90 million shoe deal hanging over his head like James.

So don't feel bad for Carmelo. He's glad there is a LeBron. He's glad he's not LeBron.

"Everybody is talking about him. I can just focus on playing," Anthony said. "I'm not saying that he can't focus on playing, but I can just go out there and play my game."

Marc J. Spears, who covers the NBA and Denver Nuggets for The Denver Post, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.

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