Archive 75

Carmelo Anthony

By Mark Medina·

Before they became NBA superstars, competitive rivals and then NBA teammates, LeBron James projected Carmelo Anthony’s trajectory. It took only one game at the Junior Olympics, where James and Anthony played against each other as high school phenoms. Afterward, James told close friends, “I just saw the best player I’ve ever seen.”

Nearly two decades later, that sentiment still stands.

Shortly after delivering Syracuse its lone national championship in his freshman season (2003), Anthony entered the NBA as the No. 3 pick and quickly became one of the game’s top scorers.

“His shot is one of the most beautiful releases I’ve seen in NBA history,” James proclaims. “I feel like it’s going in every single time.”

It sure feels like it. Anthony can score while posting up inside, pulling up from the baseline or falling away from 3-point range. He can demoralize his opponent with his athleticism at the rim, his crafty footwork in the post or his quick release from deep. That explains why Anthony likens himself to a jazz musician. He hits various notes. He improvises. And he makes it look easy.

If only it were.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Baltimore, Anthony was in instant NBA success in Denver. Coming off a 17-win season, the Nuggets soared to 43 victories and a playoff berth during Anthony’s rookie season. From the very start, Anthony proved he belonged.

Anthony finished second behind James in Rookie of the Year voting and earned a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie first team. But his scoring got lots of attention around the league, and seemed to come naturally to the 19-year-old. The video below recaps Anthony’s season-high 41-points on March 30, 2004 against the Seattle Supersonics.

The rookie scored with a youngster’s mentality by using his athleticism and quickness to attack the rim and hang in the air, but he also scored with a veteran’s mindset by showing fundamental perfection in his footwork, shooting stroke and timing in the post, along the baseline and from deep. After averaging 21 points during his initial season, Anthony became the first NBA rookie since San Antonio’s David Robinson (1989-90) to lead his team in playoff scoring.  

The magical offense that Anthony flashed during his rookie season became a staple for the remainder of his NBA career. He could score the ball nearly anytime he wanted for two reasons: He possessed the strength of a bull and the grace of a swan. Leave it to other NBA stars -- including James, Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury -- to offer their glowing scouting report on Anthony’s scoring capabilities.

Still, Anthony’s scoring dominance did not bring immediate postseason success. Sure, he helped the Nuggets end an eight-year playoff drought, but they lost in the first round for four-straight seasons.  

That all changed in the 2008-09 season. The Nuggets acquired veteran point guard Chauncey Billups three games into the season and Billups helped galvanize a talented but disruptive core that included Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Nene. And of, course, there was Anthony getting buckets as he always had.

In the Nuggets’ win against the Timberwolves on Dec. 10, 2008, Anthony scored 33 of his season-high 45 points in the third quarter to tie an NBA record. The most impressive part? Well, Anthony surely dazzled with his usual offensive tricks, but this outburst came while he nursed a right elbow bruise. That did not stop Anthony from playing. Or scoring.

The Nuggets found playoff success after the 2008-09 season, advancing to the Western Conference finals, where they eventually lost to the Lakers in six games. But during that season, many observed a noticeable shift in Anthony. He improved as a leader and as a facilitator on offense, all while maintaining his strong shooting and scoring numbers. And after playing deep into the postseason the previous summer, Denver and Anthony got off to a very hot start in the fall of 2009. 

But the Nuggets lost in the first round the following season. And midway through the 2010-11 season, Anthony was gone, traded to the New York Knicks in a three-team deal.

There was no doubt Anthony had the skill and charisma to thrive in the demanding New York market. And he proved that immediately. He won the NBA’s scoring title in 2012-13, and a season later he scored a career-high 62 points against the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden, which is still the highest-scoring game in New York Knicks history as well as the Madison Square Garden record.  

Pull-up jumpers, fadeaways, 3-pointers … even a half-court heave! Here’s a look at Carmelo’s 62-point game, in all its glory.  

Anthony wasn’t just a prolific NBA scorer, he was also a valuable asset for USA Basketball, appearing in four Olympics. During its last three gold-medal runs in Beijing (2008), London (2012), and Rio de Janeiro (2016), Team USA depended heavily on Anthony to score buckets. And he did, without any worry about minutes or shot attempts.

 “We have natural leaders,” Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Carmelo has been the main one.”

After blossoming into one of the NBA’s most influential stars, Anthony channeled his voice for the greater good.

In 2015 he returned to Baltimore to protest the killing of Freddie Gray, a Black man who suffered spinal cord injuries while in police custody. A year later, Anthony teamed up with James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade at the nationally televised ESPY Awards to decry recent killings of both unarmed Black people and police officers.

Anthony, Paul and Wade launched the “Social Change Fund” to address reforms involving police, criminal justice, voting access, education resources, health equity and economic investment in the Black community.  Anthony also joined the NBA’s social justice coalition, which has sought similar initiatives as well as improving the league’s minority representation among ownership, front office and coaching staffs. Because of these initiatives, Anthony received the NBA’s inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice award last year.

So even if an NBA title remains out of Anthony’s reach, the rest of his Hall-of-Fame resume seems secure. Just as James and others envisioned nearly two decades ago, Anthony has proven to be one of the NBA’s best players, with a scoring touch that few can match. He has also inspired the next generation of athletes to make an impact that goes beyond their box-score contributions.