In Monday night’s loss to the Hawks, Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony passed Elvin Hayes for No. 10 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It added to the expansive list of statistical milestones that the 10-time All-Star has been able to accomplish since returning to the NBA with the Blazers. Anthony has now scored 27,334 points with 9,788 field goals over his career.
But as ESPN’s Royce Young makes note of in his article today, Anthony’s real legacy is gauged through a more immeasurable number: the amount of players he’s impacting over future generations.
In the feature story, Anthony drew praise from both present-day All-Stars, such as Russell Westbrook, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, and Karl-Anthony Towns, as well as solidified Pantheon Hall of Famers, namely Allen Iverson and Magic Johnson. The premise centered around the distaste that players of all generations had about Anthony’s exile from the NBA, something that Anthony admitted was a blow to his pride, not knowing if he had played his last NBA game or not.
“I know myself. I believe in myself. I know what I can do. So that was the hard part at first — asking myself why,” Anthony says. “Like why? Why me? Of all people, why? Why? I was beating myself up.”
A week passed. Then two. Then a month. No one called.
“That’s just the naivety of the whole situation. It was like, ‘Somebody’s gonna call. Somebody will.’ Because it happened early in the season, it was, ‘OK somebody is gonna call,’” Anthony says. “December 15, somebody is gonna call. January, somebody is gonna call. I was kind of trying to psych myself out. And then after Christmas and New Year’s, I was just like, ‘I gotta be at peace with this, man.’ Whatever is gonna happen is gonna happen.
Anthony confessed that it got so bad for him, that he was embarrassed to even be seen in public.
“I was embarrassed,” Anthony says. “I didn’t even want to go to my son’s tournaments. I was that embarrassed. Because it’s like, you are who you are. You’ve been in this game 16 years playing at a high level and that’s just taken away from you. Nobody remembers that. It was an ego hit. I used to tell my son and wife, ‘y’all go to this tournament, I don’t think I can handle it.’ I was broken at that point.”
For a full calendar year, the six-time All-NBA selection went without a team, his playstyle serving as both a chasm and discussion on what a “good possession” and “bad possession” was in analytics conferences across the country. Nonetheless, the respect he commanded from his peers never wavered. Karl-Anthony Towns, for instance, says he remembers setting up scenarios where Anthony always got the last shot in NBA 2K.
The support of Anthony was so vehement that players got the hashtag #ApologizeToMelo trending, with similarly-exiled Jamal Crawford being among the biggest advocators.
“I think the younger generation can kind of see their future [in Melo],” Crawford says. “Because we all grow in this game if we’re lucky enough to play 15 years. But the thing about it is, how can we let people who didn’t play at this level push out a Hall of Fame guy because he doesn’t fit their new narrative of how the game should be played. I think that’s what bothered people more than anything.”
Booker’s quote put the groupthink of NBA players as a whole into a nutshell, when he said that Anthony affected his lifestyle as well as his game. He became someone that Booker could model his game after.
“He should’ve never been out in the first place,” says Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker. “And all real hoopers know that.”
In Young’s article, there’s an overflowing of support for what Anthony has meant to the future generation of basketball players. The link to the full piece can be found here.