Forgive Carmelo Anthony if he suffers from a slight case of amnesia.
Bring up the 2004 Olympics and the New York Knicks all-star guard prefers to forget about the experience.
With good reason. Anthony played sparingly on the U.S. team which went 5-3, settled for the bronze medal and averaged just 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds. It was nothing to be proud of.
Now, as he prepares to play next month in his fourth Olympics, a record for a basketball player, Anthony doesn’t hearken back to those dark days in Athens, Greece, very often.
“What happened?” he said Tuesday after Team USA’s practice at the Mendenhall Center when the subject came up. “I’m serious. I forgot about that experience.”
He was a 20-year-old kid that summer in ‘04. Now, at age 32, he’s the elder statesman for the Olympic team, which is going for its third consecutive gold medal. His role has dramatically evolved over the years, from a bench-warmer who kept his mouth shut to a probable starter and leader who isn’t afraid to speak his mind — be it about basketball or gun violence.
“I see my role as the same, leader, in my own way, gathering the troops up and going over there to try and win a gold medal,” he said if anything has changed since the London Games four years ago when he and LeBron James were the leaders of Team USA.
He has also become something of a social activist as he gets older. For the past eight months, he has spoken out about escalating violence throughout the country.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s sad,” Anthony told the Associated Press Monday. “You can’t really put into words what’s going on throughout the whole country, throughout the whole world. For us as a country, we have to stand united. We have to come together.”
At first, he wasn’t sure he wanted to play in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But as the date to decide in late June got closer, things fell into place.
“It took me a while,” Anthony said on deciding whether or not to play for his country one last time. “A lot of thinking. I had to see how I felt physically. It took some convincing, But once I got past that thought, I decided to play.
“I’m dedicated. I’m here. I’m all in.”
It’s early. But so far, Anthony likes what he sees of the 2016 team.
“Right now, everything is good. The guys seem positive. The guys seem healthy. We’ve had two good days of practice. (Monday) was good. (Tuesday) was better.
“This is the fun part. Training camp. Guys competing, getting to play together. Guys getting to know each other.”
Jerry Colangelo, the managing director for the Olympic team and chairman of USA Basketball, is thrilled Anthony is coming back for one more tour.
“He has been a big part in changing the culture,” Colangelo said of Anthony. “Carmelo was the first player I talked to back in ’05 about the future.
Anthony said it took awhile for the pain of ’04 to go away. But even in losing, he learned something from that experience that has helped him throughout his career.
“I took away mental toughness,” he said. “For me to go through a situation like that spearheaded a lot of other things that happened right after that. So to be mentally tough and get through that and still be able to perform on a basketball court, that was probably the most important thing.”
Anthony holds the Olympic record for most points in a game, 37, set against Nigeria in 2012 when the U.S. won a preliminary round game in London, 156-73. He is No. 1 in career 3-point field goals made (39) and attempted (94). He has averaged 10.4 points over three Olympiads.
“He’s a terrific international player,” Colangelo said of Anthony. “His skill set fits like a glove. He loves the environment. He loves the culture. He feels like this is family. So that’s his call. But he’s the last one standing. It’s great to see. It’s a great story. I can’t be more pleased. ”
Contact Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow on Twitter: @stevecarprj