IT WAS NOV. 5, 2017, Game nine for the newly formed super team in Oklahoma City. After a bumpy 4: 4 start, the Thunder were in Portland to face a division rival.
Trail Blazer coach Terry Stotts had taken his seat in the narrow hallway of the Moda Center foreplay to speak to reporters and, like the first eight OKC games, a series of questions had been asked of what to make of the big three – Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Platitudes about talent, goal and potential were expected, but when Stotts plowed through the praise, he said the quiet part out loud about the thunder.
“With all due respect to Carmelo,” said Stotts, “four of their five starters are very good defenders.”
When Stotts further outlined his take on this Thunder team, although it was understood that way, his account of Anthony was not intended to be a joke or a stab. He wasn’t wrong. Anthony had never been highly regarded on the defensive. Even though he had switched positions and pushed power forward in OKC, he had still been a late night pick and roll target for opposing offenses. Then, after a tumultuous season with OKC winning 48 games, Stotts’ quiet hallway scouting report on Anthony hit a crescendo. It was game 5 of the first round of Thunder against the Utah Jazz. Already three games to one, OKC was 71-53 behind and was on the way to a public disgrace for their so-called super team.
Then a run. A season-friendly run. For the last seven minutes of the third quarter and the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, the thunder roared back, deploying wing Jerami Grant on the 4 with a hyper-aggressive, all-buzzing defense system.
Anthony watched everything from the bench.
After OKC was eventually knocked out in six games, it was clear to anyone who paid attention: Melo would not be back in Oklahoma City.
Then, after an infamous 10-game stretch in Houston to open the 2018-19 season, Carmelo Anthony, a man who formed 10 All-Star teams and scored nearly 26,000 points, was dropped from the rockets. His reputation was in ruins.
As Anthony’s steep fall unfolded in franchise boardrooms and front offices across the league, a different reaction came from his peers. There was confusion. Consternation. Indignation.
“It was a basketball crime in its purest form,” said Jamal Crawford, 21-year-old veterinarian and three-time sixth man of the year. “Melo is a baller. He’s a hooper. He’s a hooper. That’s why he’s so adored and why it bothered so many people. That’s why it was so loud.”
The respect that Anthony enjoys across the league was never lost, even if he did. Young stars admire his craftsmanship, his attention to detail and his raw hit rate. Now in his sophomore season with the Blazers and just overtaking Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes as 10th on the NBA list of all time, Anthony has long been one of the most polarizing players in the game, de facto the dividing line in the Debate between good and bad shots.
For the players it is as if he were the representation of pure tires, the recoil against efficiency calibrations and analytical decisions.
“”He Can’t you get a job That’s almost a slap in the face, “says Crawford.” Especially the real ballers in the league. If it can happen to Melo, it can happen to anyone. “
– Yes Morant (@JaMorant) 17th October 2020
Just two years Carmelo Anthony, 35, was unemployed and no longer an all-star in New York. He was unemployed.
“I know myself. I believe in myself. I know what I can do. That was the difficult part at first – I wonder why,” says Anthony. “How why? Why me? Of all things, why? Why? I beat myself up.”
A week passed. Then two. Then a month. Nobody called.
“That’s just the naivety of the whole situation. It was like ‘Someone will call. Someone will do it.’ Because it happened at the beginning of the season, it was “OK, someone is going to call,” says Anthony. December, someone will call. January, someone will call. I tried to outsmart myself. And then after Christmas and New Years I just thought, ‘I have to be at peace with this man. ‘Whatever will happen, will happen.
“I have to find other ways to be happy. Maybe that’s it for me.”
Anthony began looking into finance, technology, or entertainment opportunities after his career. He went to his son Kiyan’s AAU games, but it wasn’t easy to show his face.
“I was embarrassed,” says Anthony. “I didn’t even want to go to my son’s tournaments. I was so embarrassed. Because it’s like you are who you are. You have been in this game for 16 years and you play at a high level and that only got you taken. ” Nobody remembers it. It was an ego hit. I used to say to my son and wife, “You are going to this tournament, I don’t think I can handle it.” I was broken at that point. “
For years there was always talk of what Anthony needed to change. Change of position, change of style, change of approach, change of role.
“I had to make all kinds of adjustments. Spiritually. Emotionally. Spiritually,” says Anthony. “The physical part that I already did. But the mental, emotional, and spiritual part was what I really needed to get stronger on. And that’s what I really focused on and what really brought me to peace when I walked away from it .
“But,” says Anthony, emphasizing the counterpoint, “I go away and know that I can still go out and play.”
For 375 days and a full NBA season, Anthony didn’t touch NBA soil.
Congratulations Melo! One of the best. As simple as that. https://t.co/QIipnHKaO0
– Jayson Tatum (@ jaytatum0) August 10, 2020
WEDNESDAY BY THE In the second quarter of a matchup between the Blazers and the Boston Celtics on April 13, Carmelo Anthony is where he’s been a thousand times: on his right elbow. With his back to the basket, he gives his defender, Celtics newcomer Payton Pritchard, a subtle deke, tilting his head slightly to the right to fake as if turning around and running over his right shoulder. Instead, he peeled back, rolled over his left shoulder, and pressed against the 6-foot-1 guard.
Anthony crosses the ball from right to left and then hesitates as it drives towards the center of the ground. Pritchard shuffles to cut it off, but after a dribble planting Anthony’s right foot, he turns his back on the basket and collects the ball, which spins into a baseline pull-up. money.
Like so many of the nearly 22,000 before it, this shot is part of a sequence. It’s not a fixed game or a back screen to free him into an open pocket of space. It was designed, built from years of laboratory work, with every movement locked to the previous one, to create a picturesque 15-foot movement.
It is well documented that, with a few superstar exceptions, the midrange is an analytical crime. Here basketball can also become an art form in which the sweat justice of individual workouts and craftsmanship produces poetry. It’s a basketball artifact.
So imagine the paradox for Anthony – and for a generation of gamers who grew up and admired his game. That middle-range shot had made him millions, earned him international fame, and made him an icon beyond the game. That shot is why it goes into the Hall of Fame on a first round of voting. It’s also what he should stop doing so damn much.
“That thing that made you a Hall of Famer, just stop it, right?” Says Crawford with a laugh. “How many points did Melo get in ISO? How many did he get when he just assessed someone and went to work?”
For legendary bucket-getters like Crawford, young and old alike, Anthony’s game is the distillation of the tire. That way, you settled the neighborhood debates and established who was at the top of the food chain. One on one, me and you, who is better?
“That’s why there’s an interruption,” says Crawford. “The players look at him like, ‘We love him because what he brings to the table, what he cares about, how we grew up.’ And now comes the breakup because it says, “OK, you tell us to play a certain way, but a lot of you have never played at that level.” So it could be that I grew up with Melo maybe had a Melo poster on my wall, maybe wore his shoe growing up. And when I saw him get buckets and win them. “
So many young players grew up taking Syracuse to a national championship as a freshman. watched him turn into a scoring machine in Denver, meeting fadeaway jumper after fadeaway jumper in Madison Square Garden, doing it his own way. Someone like Karl-Anthony Towns, 25, remembers watching Melo play when he was high school in a prime time shootout in Trenton, New Jersey.
“He was always special,” says Towns. “One of the most talented attackers I have ever seen.”
Towns says he would play NBA 2K in practice mode and create scenarios over and over with 10 seconds remaining. Melo always got the ball for the last shot.
“He’s an icon, there’s no doubt about that, and if I had to give my opinion, he’d be a first-round Hall of Famer,” says Towns. “He’s one of the best little strikers to play this game, one of the most electrifying players this league has ever seen.”
As Crawford says, people love Anthony. Current and past teammates cite his sense of humor and attention to younger players who seek advice and guidance. The way he played the game resonated with every child who picked up a ball.
As Anthony’s future in the league became more uncertain, the support he received from the players never wavered. LeBron James said in December 2018 he thought Melo could still play. Allen Iverson said there was no way Melo should retire. Magic Johnson said he thought Melo still had a lot to do. Zach LaVine tweeted, “Respect Melo the hell! Got his name tossed around like he wasn’t one of the baddest guys to stick the ball in the hoop!” Taurean Prince tweeted, “Guarded him for a month. The same thing that only sets Melo apart is the narrative he throws at his name.”
Will Barton said in December 2019: “It’s crazy how disrespectful a guy is who is good on social media. They look on Twitter and Instagram, they keep fooling him. But real basketball heads know how good this guy is, and he’s a special talent. “Westbrook said in August 2020:” He belongs in this league. He has shown it time and time again. “
And on and on. Even now, when Anthony hits a big shot, a hashtag goes viral, with NBA players often contributing: #ApologizeToMelo.
Respect the hell out of Melo! Got his name tossed around like he wasn’t one of the nastiest guys to stick the ball in the hoop! And still is
– Zach LaVine (@ZachLaVine) 2nd August 2019
Anthony’s legacy will endure under the influence of a younger generation of shooters. His game is the living representation of every child in their driveway. Ousted from the game, Anthony felt for many like a rejection of what basketball was about.
“I think the younger generation can somehow see their future [in Melo]”Says Crawford.” Because we all grow in this game if we are lucky enough to play for 15 years. But the thing is, how can we get people who haven’t played at this level to kick out a Hall of Fame guy because it doesn’t fit their new narrative of how the game is supposed to be played. I think that bothered people more than anything. “
The schism was pronounced. From his departure until his return, Anthony became a symbol, a means to vent frustrations about the media, analytics or league politics.
“He should never have been outside,” says Devin Booker, the guardian of the Phoenix Suns. “And all real tires know that.”
TERRY STOTTS IS He was standing in front of the locker room with a ball in his left hand. It’s May 3rd and the Blazers have just lost to the up and coming Atlanta Hawks.
“We have to acknowledge milestones and this is a big one,” he said. “Top 10 of all time. This is a big time.”
With a handshake, he passes the ball to Anthony, who lifts the ball into the air while the locker room bursts into cheers.
“A few years ago I don’t think I’ll be in that moment. I was out of the league … for whatever reason,” Anthony told his teammates. “I’m back. I persevered. I stayed strong. I stayed true to myself and now I’m in the top 10 here.”
It took him 10 points to overtake Hayes. Forty-six seconds after checking into the game – off the bench – he splashed his first shot, an instant catch-and-shoot 3. Three fingers in the side of the head three times. His trademark.
“There aren’t many people who can get through this league and be called an icon,” said Booker. “And Melo, Stay Melo, is definitely one of those guys.”
Two minutes later, Damian Lillard drives into the paint, pulls defenders and kicks a wide-open Anthony. Same place. Catch-and-Shoot. Three fingers three times to the head.
“For me personally, he has influenced my life and my game from afar,” continues Booker. “I just watch him over time. Watch the skill, watch his passion for the game.”
Twelve seconds into the second quarter, Enes Kanter sets a downscreen for Anthony and McCollum turns the ball on the wing to face him. He’s open enough to pull from 3, but after a quick headfake and dribble, he rises to a classic melo mid-ranger – body leaning, legs shaved – and pegs him down.
“He’s a hooper. A real hooper,” adds Booker. “And that will never change.”
For his ninth, tenth and eleventh points, Anthony isolates on the right wing, Danilo Gallinari checks him – a slight cross through his legs, right to left to gauge his defender, then a hard dribble.
With a hair of space he pulls overcommits and barrels into Anthony’s lower body from 3. Gallinari. All net plus the foul. Three fingers in the noggin again.
Anthony recognizes the moment and raises both arms in the air.
Booker says, “Melo is forever.”