LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are best of friends but far from equals on the court.
James recently propelled his Miami Heat to a first round Eastern Conference victory over Anthony’s New York Knicks in five games. Yet James states the result will not impact their friendship.
“Our friendship goes beyond basketball, but, during the game, there’s really no friends,” James said. “He’s one of the best friends that I have. But it was great to finally go through a playoff series against him. He’s one of the best players we have in this league and one of the biggest competitors we have in this league.”
James and Anthony were regarded by most as the two best small forwards and overall players taken in the 2003 draft. James went number one to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Anthony number three to the Denver Nuggets.
Due to playing in different conferences and never meeting more than twice in a season for seven years, the rivalry never fully blossomed. But, after James went to Miami in July 2010 and Anthony joined him in the East with New York in February 2011, it looked as if it finally might get going.
Anthony states there is a rivalry.
“I’ve known LeBron since I was in high school,” Anthony said. “It’s always good to play against him, to play against a guy that’s going to bring the best out of you.”
The two first faced each other in high school in February 2002, when Anthony was a senior at Virginia’s Oak Hill and James a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio. They were team-mates in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and have both played against each other and been team-mates in NBA All-Star Games.
Both finished their 2012 series having averaged 27.8 points. The Heat advanced to face the Indiana Pacers in an East semifinal which started on Sunday in Miami.
Dwyane Wade, who also played on the 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams, enjoys the rivalry.
“They’ve been running into each other for a long time,” Wade said. “You can see it on both of their faces, they love it, the competitive nature of them both. As a team-mate, I enjoy it because I know Melo is going to push LeBron, he’s going to challenge him and you need that.”
Still, Anthony always has been in James’ shadow. He was second behind him in voting for Rookie of the Year, trails him in Most Valuable Player awards 2-0 and only once has been past the first round of the playoffs while James has been to two Finals.
Anthony so much wants to get into James’ territory that he copied him. Many viewed Anthony’s trade last year from Denver to New York as a desire to form a version of the Big Three. The Knicks’ trio of Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler currently pales in comparison to Miami’s one of James, Wade and Chris Bosh.
Anthony hopes that will change.
“In the future, I feel good about competing with the top teams in the Eastern Conference. I do consider our team being up there, top three, top four teams in the East. We just got to get better and go from there.”