Carmelo Anthony is poised to win his third gold medal in the Olympics, something that should be a bit of pride for New York Knicks fans who have suffered long in waiting for a winner. But if Anthony doesn’t come back from his cruise ship off the coast of Rio a different player then the shiny new bling will mean nothing for Knicks fans.

The knock on Anthony was and is and likely will continue to be a selfish player who chucks up shots at his own discretion, driving out of town teammates who don’t fit his mindset and mentality. And while Olympic gold will be something special for him and even the organization that writes him his checks, it boils down to a big fat zero for this franchise if he doesn’t finally emerge as a different player. A humble one, willing to share the ball.

He’s always been a star around these parts. Problem is, he has never really been more than that.

And Anthony must take more from this weekend than just a gold medal. He must come back to the Knicks a humble leader, a teammate.

Given the Knicks offseason and moves in free agency, there is little doubt that this team can and should be a playoff team. They’ve traded and added some big pieces, finally having a starting lineup that makes them a division contender. But what they still have is a vortex in Anthony who can gobble up not only all the shots and the flow of the offense but also the good vibrations of this veteran team. Anthony can suck the soul out of a team just by being himself. Maybe that’s not fair but it’s true.

And if he doesn’t come from the (relatively-speaking) star-studded Olympic roster with some balance and perspective and not just a gold medal, he can derail the effectiveness of this new-look Knicks team. He has that power.

This is the defining moment of Anthony’s career, this season and perhaps the next one the best opportunity for him to make a playoff run. He is 32-years old now, old enough to maturely look at life on and off the court and make the decision that he can be a teammate in every meaning of the word. Or he could decide to remain firmly entrenched in his persona, in turning a potentially powerful Knicks team into something decidedly average.

Perhaps this Olympic run to the gold (which is how this thing will end with a gold medal) will give Anthony perspective that Phil Jackson or Derek Fisher could never pass on. Maybe he will see in the ball work and shared philosophy with the national team the same sort of possibilities and potential that a Knicks team featuring Derek Rose, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee possesses. It may not be a Dream Team per se but it could be a contender out of the Eastern Conference.

If he returns selfish, consistently entrenched in his ways, his philosophy as well as his own personal mantra, then perhaps all that glitters is not necessarily gold.

Notes:

With the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball team looking to take home gold on Sunday, the NBA Store in New York City will be providing the ultimate VIP experience that day. The first 50 fans who spend $250+ at the store (5thAvenue at 45th Street) on Sunday will have the chance to hang out with select Team USA basketball legends – David Robinson, Grant Hill, Lenny Wilkens, Teresa Edwards – prior to the game from 12-1pm. The VIP experience will include autograph and photo opportunities, pop-a-shot contests, a special take home gift and more.