Tracing Career Rivalry Arc of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterApril 20, 2013

Mar. 3, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) wait for a rebound during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Miami won 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have history. Ironically, after 10 years in the pros, very little of it has played out on an NBA court.

Like most rivalries and romances, this one started back in high school.

James went to St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio. At the time, he had scrawny arms and a well-positioned hairline. Melo transferred to the prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He also had scrawny arms and a fro seemingly attached to his headband. These schools ended up finding a way to square off in a featured event that was promoted to showcase two of the brightest young stars in America.

The two high schools, or two players, sold out Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, New Jersey. And it turns out that the ticket was worth the price of admission.

Anthony went for 34 points and 11 boards in the win, despite James' 36 points, eight boards and five assists. It was a game that would ultimately ignite a friendship and rivalry that will forever link the two together.

In 2002, it was James who became known as "The Chosen One," after his picture got splashed across the cover of Sports Illustrated. Your average basketball fan wasn't typically familiar with kids on the high school circuit. But people knew that LeBron fella.

As a senior, James was having his high school games broadcast on national television. Anthony, a year older, was a freshman at Syracuse, where he led the Orange to a national championship.

Soon, they'd be sitting together in the Green Room at Madison Square Garden. James, of course, was selected No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers before Anthony went No. 3 to the Denver Nuggets.

No word yet on how the No. 2 pick in that draft worked out.

But there was just something about these two kids that drew everyone toward them. It was more than just their talent. James and Anthony had contagious smiles and a tremendous amount of likability.

They had star power.

With James landing in the East and Anthony in the West, the two never really developed much of an on-court rivalry.

But then James would take his infamous talents to South Beach and Anthony would force a trade to New York. And now, both in the prime of their careers, they're the top two MVP candidates in the East on the top two teams in the conference.

Prior to Miami's 2012 NBA championship, the biggest knock on James was his inability to close. Anthony's biggest criticism has been his inability to lead. Until this day, Melo has only been out of the first round once, while James has made three Finals appearances with the last one resulting in a ring. 

Now, it's Anthony's turn to challenge James and reestablish a rivalry that started over 10 years ago. A rivalry that peaked before the pros and diminished over time.

The path to this rivalry has been an upside-down arc. A "U", starting at the top left before plummeting toward the ground floor. In 2012-13, we're taking the elevator back up with Anthony's team and individual reputation surging back to elite status.

Last year, James and Miami took out the Knicks in Round 1 in a series that nobody really took seriously. If this year's seeds play out the way they're supposed to, the two will face off in the Eastern Conference Finals—a series that everyone will take seriously.

The Knicks took three out of four from Miami this year, and their confidence is as high as ever.

Most of that has to do with Carmelo Anthony, who's playing the best ball of his career after winning his first NBA scoring title.

This is the year we're poised to see a LeBron James-Carmelo Anthony rivalry finally take off on a meaningful stage. Ultimately, it will be up to Melo to make it happen, as you can pretty much Sharpie the Heat in to Round 3 of this year's NBA playoffs.

But for the first time in a while, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks are relevant in the big picture. And the hurdle standing in Melo's way will be the same hurdle that blocked his path to Cleveland during the 2003 NBA draft.

It appears that Anthony and James are back to square one as competitive friends and basketball rivals.