What could be the connection between Liverpool and Cleveland Cavaliers at this time of the year? Certainly the off seasons for both clubs are months away and the Reds are not touring America playing a series of preseason games.
It happens, the biggest name in basketball, LeBron James who plays for Cleveland, is a minor shareholder in Liverpool FC. It also happens that neither club is enjoying 2017 as it did last year.
The Reds have found winning tough since the turn of the year and recently crashed out of yet the English Football League and FA Cups respectively.
For the Cavaliers, shocking losses to Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans, who played without All-Star Anthony Davis, have highlighted a free falling team. The only reason Cleveland is still the best team in the Eastern Conference is because its closest rivals, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, are facing similar losing runs as well. Frustrated, James snapped “he is 33 and doesn’t have time to wait”.
These comments were passed on to New York Knicks Forward Carmelo Anthony for his take and his answer summed up Carmelo’s 14 year career in the league. “I’m in a different situation than him… He’s won. He’s just coming off of a championship” Anthony said in an interview per ESPN.com.
LeBron led the Cavaliers to its first ever NBA Championship last season and his achievement during the same period is light years better than Carmelo. For starters, James has three titles to his name aside winning four Most Valuable Player of the Year Awards and earning several accolades.
On the other hand, Anthony hasn’t been that successful considering he has just one Western Conference Finals appearance on his CV and a slew of All-Star appearances and scoring titles including the United States Olympic record. However, both players share certain traits. Both stand 6 foot 8 inches tall, play the Small Forward position, were raised by single mothers and drafted into the NBA in the same year; the coveted 2003 Class. James was selected number one overall and Anthony got off the boards in the third spot and that is where the similarities end.
Anthony had a head start of the two by making the playoffs right away whilst LeBron missed out on the postseason for two straight years and hasn’t looked back since as six consecutive NBA Finals appearances put him at par with Bill Russell’s mark. A lot of factors can be attributed to James’ success over Anthony but it must be noted the latter’s situation is self inflicted much like Enes Kanter’s recent arm fracture. James left Cleveland to join forces with fellow draftees Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to maximize his chances of winning a title. To make this work, James and his friends took sizable pay cuts to get together and spare the Miami Heat extra dollars to rope in role players like Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Chris Andersen to chip in minor contributions especially during the long regular season.
LeBron ended up winning two titles before returning to Cleveland. Carmelo on the other hand, forced Denver Nuggets to trade him to New York which led the Knicks to jettison a host of players to match the trade value. In the end, Carmelo got what he wanted but missed out on having good players around him to help him go deeper in the postseason. In the Big Apple, Anthony played alongside Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith achieving little success; the best they could muster together was a second round appearance in the playoffs. However, James was reportedly a major influence behind Cleveland’s capture of the duo midway through the 2014-2015 season.
Mere months after the trade, Smith, notorious around the league for his wild antics on and off the court, was an NBA champion popping champagne without his shirt on. Both players credited James for turning their careers around; Shumpert signed a four year $40 million contract and Smith recently signed a four year $57 million deal prior to this season. As a free agent for the first time in his career, Carmelo was courted by several teams including the Chicago Bulls who had top defensive Center Joakim Noah and Small Forward gem Jimmy Butler in its stables. Anthony signed a five year deal with the Knicks instead despite the lack of quality on the roster. Noah has eventually joined Anthony with Chicago’s oft injured Point Guard Derrick Rose.
However, neither player is what he used to be especially Noah, who is way off his 2014 Defensive Player of the Year form leaving Anthony’s scoring efforts (22.7 points per game) worthy of just 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Yes LeBron has won, but the situation could have been different for Carmelo if he had been a little more like his friend, brother and Eastern contender.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah