The once exiled superstar now sits atop NBA history as one of its ten all-time scorers, this odyssey is eighteen seasons in the making. It’s time to put respect on his name.
On November 19th, 2019, Carmelo Anthony returned to the NBA by signing with the Portland Trailblazers after what seemed like a lifetime out of the league. For one reason or another, Anthony was blackballed from the league while it was clear to any fan that he was still a capable player. Fast forward to this past Monday, Carmelo Anthony passed the legendary Elgin Hayes for tenth on the all-time NBA scorers list. This was a moment that wasn’t always promised, so just how in the hell did we get here?
Anthony, a 23.0 points per game career scorer, is part of the lauded 2003 NBA draft class that included Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James. LeBron and Melo are the only two players of those four that remain active, and continue to play at a high level.
Melo was criticized heavily for his style of play during his waning years with the New York Knicks. Analysts and "experts” expressed concern that Anthony wasn’t capable of accepting lesser roles on teams. They said that he was a “ball stopper” and disrupted the flow of offense due to his isolation style of play. Phil Jackson, the team president at the time didn’t help to make matters better, as he was a huge proponent of that narrative as well.
When the dust settled and Melo exited New York in 2016, a cloud of all of this public critique and doubt travelled with him to his stops with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets. On paper, Melo played with Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and James Harden, four all-stars who are presumably would-be hall of famers. He had a cup of coffee with both squads. Things just didn’t work out, and it was widely believed by analysts and experts that Melo’s days as an NBA player were over.
Following him being waived on November 15, 2018 by the Houston Rockets, Melo continued to stay active. He posted videos of him training regularly on social media. He was waived only ten games or so into the season. With a full season left, surely he thought, he would get a call from another club, but bad press deterred front offices from bringing him back on board. He stayed patient, and he stayed positive. He put in the work. Who would imagine that a ten time NBA all-star and three time Olympic gold medalist would be humbled to this extent? But Melo was, and he stayed faithful and obedient to his craft.
Damn near a year later to the day in 2019, Melo finally signed a one year deal with the Portland Trailblazers for the veteran’s minimum of $2.15 million. Since that day, he’s been averaging 14.5 points per game, which is seemingly 14.5 points more than these experts and analysts had originally assumed. The addition of Melo to their roster has been a much needed jolt for the Trailblazers. They are always riddled with injuries; and with Melo on their team bolstering their score punch, they have been able to remain competitive for longer stretches lately than in past years.
Melo knows his role; he has bought into fulfilling it. He has taken full advantage of this opportunity to prove his detractors wrong.
His reward? 27,318 points for tenth all-time on the NBA scorers list. There are only nine individuals in the seventy-four year history of the NBA that have scored more than Melo. He even has the opportunity this season to surpass Moses Malone for ninth all-time at 27,409. So it’s simply time that we salute this story of redemption. There isn’t a pundit that is saying that Melo doesn’t belong anymore.
There’s a lesson in that for all of us. There’s so much that we can do in the dark as we prepare for the right opportunity. We can’t look at the clock and wonder when it’ll come. You have to be true to your art, your desire, and your purpose. What’s real will find you as you prepare yourself for it without an unhealthy ego.
Carmelo Anthony is a legend. It’s time that we begin to frame him as such on a regular basis. They wanted to silence his game, and they wanted his career to end mired in negativity, but the human will is way stronger. The human will said f*** that! And Melo’s game echoes that sentiment every night that he laces em’ up.
Carmelo Anthony's memoir Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope will be released September 14, 2021.
Kahlil is a writer, author, and content creator from Brooklyn, NY. He really thinks that you should be familiar with him by now, but if you aren't, feel free to be. Follow his work on Instagram @Damnitpops and his thoughts and rants on Twitter @Damnpops