Carmelo Anthony's journey up the NBA's scoring list was far from easy
It's Year 18, and a certain all-time-great forward keeps moving up in the NBA's record books.
And it's not who you might think it is.
In his second season with the Portland Trail Blazers, Carmelo Anthony is proving that he is still more than capable of putting up points with the best of them, averaging 13.6 points per game while shooting a scorching-hot 40.5% from 3-point range.
He is proving to be among the greatest scorers in the history of the NBA, a status he cemented after he passed Elvin Hayes on Tuesday to move into 10th on the all-time scoring list, with 27,318 career points.
But even with a résumé that will eventually make him a Hall of Famer – thanks to nearly two decades spent filling up buckets in NBA games – this moment wasn't promised for Anthony.
After he was a 10-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA selection and three-time Olympic gold medalist, Anthony was fighting for his NBA career as recently as 2018-19.
After signing with Houston during the 2018 offseason on a one-year, $2.4 million contract, Anthony played just 10 games for the Rockets before he was traded to the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 22, 2019. The Bulls waived him 10 days later.
Anthony sat out the rest of that season as franchises apparently wondered if his production no longer matched his reputation.
In a profile story by Jason Quick of The Athletic, Anthony shared how that was the fork-in-the-road moment of his NBA career.
"Most people’s defining moment comes earlier in their career; mine came in Year 16," Anthony said. "Even though it was a bad time — well, I don’t want to say bad time, but a down time for me — it was a game-changer for me. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, it just changed the game for me. It made me lock into a different perspective."
In a video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Anthony spoke about how he became disconnected from basketball during his time away from the league.
"Mentally and emotionally, I had detached myself from the game a little bit just to give myself some sanity and not think about it," he said. "But once I got that call, the challenge was to just flip that back mentally."
The call came from the Blazers in November 2019, when he signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal. He went on to average 15.4 PPG in 59 games during the 2019-20 season, helping Portland reach the playoffs. In turn, he proved that he still belonged in the NBA.
"You know what? It’s a testament to my perseverance," Anthony said. "Regardless of what was said or who didn’t like it or who loved it, I stayed true to who I am and to myself. I never did anybody wrong. I always supported people, always gave advice … so honestly, it’s a blessing. To be in Year 18 and reaching this milestone, I will look at it more like that: a blessing."
Anthony's journey could be viewed as a great redemption story, and in the opinion of Stephen A. Smith, he is one of the most disrespected legends the game has seen.
He explained why on ESPN's "First Take:" "For the league itself to ostracize Carmelo Anthony, saying he wouldn't accept a role, his ego would get in the way, the guy has been class personified his entire career, and the class and the dignity in which that he carried himself, he deserved better than the league writing him off."
Despite all of the twists and turns, finding himself unwanted and working his way back into the game, Anthony now finds himself in a place he can cherish – among the top 10 scorers in NBA history.
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