Redemption takes many forms in basketball. A team coming back to win a series after an upset. A player hitting a game winning shot after being pushed around. A team winning a championship after it slips through their fingers the year before. A player returning to the league after retirement, to find himself fitting in even better than before.
Carmelo Anthony may be the best example of a redemption story that the NBA has seen in a while. Anthony entered the league during the 2003 draft, selected 3rd overall by the Denver Nuggets. He went on to play for the New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Houston Rockets before being waived by the Chicago Bulls in February of 2019. Over a year after his last NBA game, Anthony was signed by the Trail Blazers to a one year, non-guaranteed deal.
Anthony made a name for himself early on, racking up awards throughout his time in the NBA. Despite his incredible talent and All Star accolades, he struggled to build chemistry and mesh well with his teammates. If you google his name, stories surface about the locker room drama and lack of chemistry.
It’s been a completely different story in Portland. Anthony came to the Blazers at a crucial time. According to an interview with “The Joe Budden podcast” back in September, Damian Lillard had been actively pursuing Anthony for a while before he actually signed. “I tried, two years ago I tried to get ‘Melo to come to Portland, and he went to Oklahoma City,” Lillard said. “Then after that, I tried to get him to come to Portland again, and he went to Houston.”
Trail Blazers shooting guard, CJ McCollum even posted a photoshopped photo on Instagram of Anthony wearing a Trail Blazers Jersey back in 2017.
In season plagued by injuries, giving ‘Melo a try made sense.
From the beginning of his time in Portland, Anthony has been seemingly the perfect fit for the Trail Blazers. He has made big changes to his play on both ends of the court since joining the team. “He was completely bought into the [idea that on] the defensive side of the ball, he’s got to get better,” Anthony’s trainer, Alex Bazzell said in an interview with ESPN. “He was bought into not being able to hold the ball [on offense]. We would still work on his mid-post because I think that’s going to be a part of his game that he’s going to have to rely on to score every now and then. You don’t take that away; you keep all of that fresh.”
Deemed a ball hog for a large part of his career, in Portland Anthony has taken a support role, effectively choosing his spots without complaining. The chemistry he’s developed with the teammates on and off the court in such a short time indicates that he is in the right place. The team accepted him with open arms, and the feelings appear to be mutual.
Anthony is used to being more of a villain than a fan favorite, but coming to Portland seems to be changing that. “I’ve been on the other side of that, too, where it’s not cheers. It’s boos. I appreciate it. I accept that. I cherish that,” Anthony said, according to Michael Lee of The Athletic. “I take in these moments. Try to appreciate all of these moments. Going to all of these arenas. I think for the most part, it’s deeper than basketball, when it comes to me and my fan base, my support system.”
Anthony’s current contract with the Trail Blazers ends after this season, leaving his future in Portland up in the air. That future may not be guaranteed, but perhaps he wants to finish out his career in Portland. The team, and the city, took a chance on him, welcomed him with open arms, and embraced him as one of their own.
In a season defined mostly by injuries and losses, it’s nice to celebrate a comeback story.