Carmelo Anthony is the last great American ball hog


Last Monday in Chicago, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich arrived at his pregame interview in the gloomy concourse of the United Center, the house that Michael Jordan built. So many of the league's iconic highlights played out here in the 1990s, and those images seemed to be on Pop's mind.
In response to a ho-hum question about the state of the Spurs, Pop took the chance to lament the aesthetic of the NBA in 2018.
"There's no basketball anymore, there's no beauty in it," he said.
It was a startling statement from the best coach of the era, whose own championship team from just five seasons ago played arguably the most beautiful version of the sport we've ever seen.
Pop honed in: "Now you look at a stat sheet after a game and the first thing you look at is the 3s. If you made 3s and the other team didn't, you win. You don't even look at the rebounds or the turnovers or how much transition D was involved. You don't even care.
"These days there's such an emphasis on the 3 because it's proven to be analytically correct."
That's the perfect choice of words -- "analytically correct" -- to connote the invisible algorithmic hand that now guides virtually all the action we see in NBA arenas. Front offices assign every part of the game bond ratings and credit scores. Financial terms such as efficiency, asset and value have infiltrated the discussion. Offensive tactics are homogenizing, while many tried-and-true forms of scoring fall by the wayside.
A prime example of what has been left behind: Carmelo Anthony, who is only by technicality still a member of the Houston Rockets.
In June 2003, a group of amateurs including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Melo became professionals. Few draft classes can match such superstar clout, and over the past 15 seasons, those dudes have come to define the post-Jordan NBA.
That same month, Michael Lewis published "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game." Lewis, a former bond salesman on Wall Street, wove a dazzling narrative with a clear takeaway: The integration of financial reasoning, data and computation was bound to reshape pro sports forever. He was right.