Carmelo Anthony is a future Hall of Famer, yet he may be the most disrespected of that prestigious group.
This came to the forefront in late November after just 10 games with the Houston Rockets, when he and the franchise parted ways.
With that in mind, it’s time to remember the good days. A time to be thankful for his contributions to the game of basketball and exactly why he’s heading to the Hall of Fame.
Who could forget the 2002/03 NCAA basketball campaign? The year that Carmelo Anthony led his team to the championship, for the first time in franchise history. It was almost unheard of for a player in his freshman year to lead the team like he did.
Head coach Jim Boeheim believed that Melo was the most talented player in the country at the time of his recruitment from high school. He even admitted he believed that Anthony could “help lead the team to a championship”.
Joining him at Syracuse University was Gerry McNamara, who completed four years at the university, never missing a single start. During the 2002/03 season, he averaged 35.3 minutes per game and was a consistently solid shooter alongside Carmelo. McNamara averaged 13 points per game and 4.6 assists.
As for Melo, he averaged 22.2 points per game, 10 rebounds and 36.4 minutes. All of which led his team.
It wasn’t all plain-sailing, however. For example, in the Final Four National Semi-Final against the Texas Longhorns, Anthony faced the NCAA’s Defensive Player of the Year. Despite that, he scored 12 of 19 field goals. He also got 14 rebounds and three steals, and ended the night with 33 points. His efforts propelled the team into the National Championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks.
In a Bleacher Report documentary, Boeheim emphasised Anthony’s calmness in the midst of such a pressurised event. He states that Melo told him not to worry because he told him, “we got this.” And that they certainly did.
Melo nailed 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and contributed six assists. Additionally, McNamara saw great success at three-point range as he completed six of 10 for all 18 of his points. Their performance was enough to land a 81-78 victory over the Jayhawks, steeping their name in Syracuse folklore.
To conclude the season, Anthony was awarded the Most Outstanding Player honour. After achieving everything he set out to accomplish, he decided to forego his remaining years at the university. The decision came with Boeheim’s blessing, of course, who best described him as “[…] by far, the best player in college basketball. It wasn’t even close. Nobody was even close to him last year in college basketball. That’s the bottom line”.
The famous and arguably most iconic version of the legend we know today was formed in Denver.
Only high school hero LeBron James and Serbian centre Darko Miličić were chosen before Anthony, as he was selected third overall by the Nuggets in the 2003 NBA Draft.
Unfortunately for Melo, a championship never came about in Colorado. That said, he showed why he was a generational scorer.
In his first season, he started all 82 regular season games. He boasted an average of 21 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists. It was a truly groundbreaking year for the rookie as he led the team to a playoff berth, but they were knocked out in the first round.
That sentiment was not a one off. In-fact, it occurred again, and again, and again, until the 2009 NBA playoffs, when the Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals. However, they were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although the Nuggets never landed a ring, Melo certainly asserted his dominance as one of the most unstoppable offensive pieces in the game. In the seven and a half years he played in the Rocky Mountain State he never dropped below 21 points per game, whilst his best season produced an average of 28.9.
It was becoming increasingly evident that as Carmelo improved rapidly, the Nuggets appeared to regress. The 2010/11 season produced conflict surrounding Carmelo’s position with the Nuggets. It was rumoured that Melo requested a trade and even rejected a proposed contract extension.
It would have required any interested franchise to give up multiple talents and high draft-picks to land the superstar. The logical idea for Anthony would have been to conclude the season with the Nuggets and test free agency, that way his new team would not have to break the bank to haul him from Denver. However, the Nuggets decided to trade him in order to gain at least something, instead of nothing come the offseason.
The King of New York
50 games into the 2010-11 season, the New York Knicks jumped the buzzer and signed Carmelo Anthony along with his teammate, Chauncey Billups. The Knicks traded away Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and multiple draft picks, including a 2014 first-round pick for their services.
Many believed that Carmelo was most likely to cement his legacy in the Big Apple. He was joined there by Amare Stoudemire, who was second in scoring at the time of signing with 26.1 points per game. It was also rumoured that Chris Paul, a great friend of Carmelo, may be on his way too. The Knicks were on the brink of a super team.
But that was as far as they got. Similar to Melo, Paul’s contract was running out too. The Pelicans pulled the trigger on a trade involving their star, which saw him become a Clipper.
The Anthony trade did not work out as hoped in New York. The pairing with Stoudemire never dominated as the former’s career spiralled downwards after multiple injuries. Billups saw his game decline in the latter stages of his career.
The Knicks made the playoffs just three times with Melo as their focal point, reaching as far as the Conference Semi-finals in 2013. That season proved to be Carmelo’s best statistically – he was the Scoring Champion with 28.1 points per game.
The trade might not have been successful in clinching a trophy, but it solidified his reputation. He once again found himself as a franchise player, and more importantly, the king of New York.
Beginning of the End
The King wished to be dethroned in the offseason of 2017. After multiple arguments with then team President Phil Jackson, Melo demanded a trade, seeking offers from either the Cavaliers, Rockets or Thunder.
The trade signalled the beginning of the end for his successful career. The Thunder underachieved in the ultra-competitive West. After a first round exit in the playoffs, he was subsequently traded to the Atlanta Hawks as a “dump-off” in order to evade millions of dollars in luxury tax payments.
Finally, Anthony opted into a buyout of his contract and was picked up on a veteran’s contract by the Rockets. In spite of participating just 10 games, the Rockets announced recently that they were cutting ties with the player.
The Los Angeles Rumours
Despite the most recent rumours circulating the Los Angeles Lakers and their intention to sign Anthony, a move looks unlikely. It was initially reported that LeBron James wanted the Lakers to acquire Carmelo.
According to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times, no such intentions have been made clear. Representatives of Carmelo had been in touch with the Lakers organisation, but they have yet to make a decision on the matter.
What Happen’s Now?
It’s hard to tell.
Carmelo Anthony has had a Hall of Fame career. A career that many could never have dreamt of. A career in which he became the only basketball player to participate in four Olympics with the US Men’s Basketball team, a 10-time All-Star and the three-time USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year.
Carmelo should retire. His contributions to the game will never be forgotten. I don’t feel his reputation can be improved by joining another team. Although a championship was never clinched during his career, Carmelo will forever remain one of the best scorers in basketball history. He should continue to be remembered fondly for that exact reason.