Illustration by Michael Pantaleon.
Carmelo Anthony never won an NBA Championship, but he created a legacy that’s worth as much, if not more, than that.
Anthony, one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, retired from the league this past week.
After 19 seasons, Anthony became best known for his tenure with the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks. Better known as “Melo,” he holds career accolades including a 2003 NCAA Championship, four Olympic Medals – including three Golds – six All-NBA Selections, 10 All-Star selections, a 2013 scoring title and he was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary team. The only notable accomplishment that has eluded Anthony’s career was winning a championship in the NBA.
Despite this, Melo’s impact on the culture of basketball on-and-off the court seals his legacy as one of the all-time greats.
— Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) May 22, 2023
The Rise To Stardom
Melo’s rise to superstardom began as he helped lead the Syracuse Orange to the 2003 NCAA Championship. His stellar play throughout the season, as well as in the tournament, helped solidify his draft stock for the legendary 2003 NBA Draft that would also include LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
Anthony was widely expected to go No. 2 to the Detroit Pistons, but actually fell to the third pick, being drafted by the Denver Nuggets and wore No. 15. As a rookie, Melo made an immediate impact on the Nuggets averaging 21 points per game, leading Denver to 43 wins and a playoff appearance.
Then-Cleveland Cavalier James would end up winning the 2004 NBA Rookie of the year, but many feel as if Anthony should have won the award, or at the very least share the award with James.
2009 may have been Anthony’s best chance to win an NBA championship. Anthony and the Nuggets would lose a hard fought series 4-2 to eventual NBA champions Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2011, the New York Knicks would trade for Anthony, a Brooklyn-born native, from the Denver Nuggets. There, he sported his iconic No. 7 jersey.
Melo’s tenure with the Knicks while captivating, left much to be desired.
Melo’s stardom reached even higher heights, playing for the league’s second most valuable franchise, despite not having much success since the late 1990s.
Maybe the defining moment of Melo’s career was in April 2012 against the Chicago Bulls.
In what is considered as the most clutch moment of his career, Melo hit a game-tying three-pointer to send the game into overtime, and hit a game-winning three ball in overtime, to the jubilation of the fans at Madison Square Garden and Knicks fans around the world.
During the playoffs, Melo lost in the first round to the NBA champions Miami Heat, led by James, Wade and Bosh.
The 2013 Knicks would win 54 games, and Melo would lead the league in scoring, he also had a case to be MVP as well, but the MVP would go to James. The Knicks lost in the second round of the 2013 playoffs to the Indiana Pacers.
Still, Melo was able to make his mark once again as he owns the Madison Square Garden record – also his career high – of 62 points against the Charlotte Bobcats in 2014.
Melo’s Cultural Impact
Anthony has been on the cover of three video games: “NCAA March Madness 2004,” “NBA LIVE 2005” and “NBA Street Homecourt.”
NBA players such as Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Paul George have all said Carmelo Anthony is the hardest player to guard individually. This is because Melo in his prime could score a variety of ways and any place on the court.
Melo may also have been one of the most entertaining players to watch at Madison Square Garden from Knicks’ PA announcer Mike Walczewski saying “CARMELO AN-THON-EH!” any time he scored, to Melo’s “3 to the dome celebration” whenever he hit a three-pointer, and Melo saying “I got it, get the f–k outta here!” on rebounds.
Anthony, along with friends Chris Paul and Wade, created the Social Change Fund in July 2020, which aims to help fix the social and economic issues African Americans face. This, along with other contributions, helped Anthony be named the 2020-2021 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion.
A Generational Player
Anthony’s career is considered to be Hall of Fame worthy for the accolades alone.
Despite never winning a championship, fans have made the case that Melo had to go against some all-time greats, without the same supporting cast his other peers were fortunate enough to have. Some have wondered if the Knicks would have been a better team if they signed Anthony and kept their assets, rather than trading for Melo and losing draft picks and supporting players.
Anthony chose to re-sign with the Knicks in 2014, instead of signing with what many believe was going to be the Chicago Bulls. Melo, to the most part, showed loyalty to his teams, especially the Knicks.
When the Knicks had success, Melo was as beloved as there is. The love for Melo was something that maybe only Linsanity in 2012 could be comparable to with basketball in New York.
Recent NBA stars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden never got the same kind of love as Melo. As the late rapper Pop Smoke said “I’m The King of New York, Melo.”
While Melo’s career is officially over, Kiyan Anthony, his son with La La Anthony, is gaining more national recognition, especially after his retirement video that hints at Kiyan looking to become a future NBA player like his father.
Also in the video, Anthony made sure to remind his fans to always “StayMe7o.”