He was a superstar, a dynamic scorer like we had never seen before. Carmelo Anthony just had a knack for putting the ball in the basket.
I used to watch this guy and genuinely wonder how a player could stop him one-on-one. His midrange game was so sweet. His pump-fake helped clear space for him to jump up and knock the shot down.
He was powerful enough to post up and get to his spots. And if the defender stayed tight, he was quick enough to get to the rim and had a soft touch once there. Prime Melo was a beast, man.
Carmelo Anthony dropping 40 points and hitting the game winner over LeBron James. (2010) pic.twitter.com/ZBr0qDachz
— ThrowbackHoops (@ThrowbackHoops) August 2, 2019
Now, just several years later, he can’t make a 15-man roster.
Part of his absence from the league is his attitude. Though front offices know Melo is an iso-scoring, relatively inefficient player, they also know he still holds some value. But it was his reluctance to adapt, his failure to see what he was that put Melo in this position.
Just two seasons ago, Melo was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder to join Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
Expectations were high, but even players inside the league and media alike knew something Melo didn’t: that his best days were behind him, and his role needed to change. But when a reporter for the Thunder asked Melo about the prospect of him coming off the bench, he scoffed at the notion.
Well, Melo playing against second unit scrubs would’ve worked better for the Thunder, as they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs to the Utah Jazz, led by rookie Donovan Mitchell.
The following season, the Thunder traded Melo to the Hawks (essentially to get off his contract) and the Houston Rockets took a chance and picked him up. But only ten games into the season, coincidentally (or fishily) after a game against the Thunder, the Rockets let him go.
Melo made a mistake thinking his continued tenure in the NBA was inevitable, based on his talent and skill alone. But the 2019 NBA is a team game, crafted around chemistry, spacing, and ball movement. And Melo has never been the poster child for these things.
Melo believes he’s gotten an unfair rap, and he’s out of the league because of stigma around him that is unrelated to this play.
His lack of calls from NBA front offices, and continued mentioning of his name on social media even spurred Melo to join Stephen A. Smith in a “put it all out there” interview on First Take Friday, August 2. Melo said all the right things, but we’ll see if it even matters anymore.
Carmelo Anthony says he believed in the Knicks so much and was naive to everything else pic.twitter.com/kswP5h9ngO
— Rob Lopez (@r0bato) August 2, 2019
In the interview, Melo discussed how he was close to joining the Miami Heat big three instead of Chris Bosh. He also was extremely close to joining the Chicago Bulls in 2014.
Whether it was always for the money, or plans truly did fall through, it is surely a blemish on the career of Melo that he didn’t reach the heights of his peers. He was in the same draft class as LeBron James, who went to eight consecutive NBA Finals. Melo has never been to one.
Then there is the thought of how Dwayne Wade finished his career. Also in the same draft class and a three-time NBA champion, Wade accepted his role of coming off the bench his last couple years in the league. And for it, he had a wonderful farewell tour and some moments we will never forget. Melo, as a good friend to Wade, just comes across in this situation as rigid.
Someone may take a chance on Melo. Maybe it will even be James’ team in the Lakers. But Melo’s prime is far gone, and his lack of success in the postseason is a dark spot on an otherwise really great career.
You had the chance to go down as one of the greatest of all time, Melo, and now, it is possible that all we have left is to think of what might have been.