No matter what, ‘Melo's always gonna be my youngin’.
I told him that when we became teammates after his rookie year,
and I told him that the last time we spoke.
On the real, not many people know how hard it is to make it in
the league and to play for 18 years. And what’s even tougher is
making it to 18 years while still playing at a high level.
So when I saw ‘Melo become the 11th player in NBA history to
score 27,000 points earlier this season, man, it was
crazy. It was one of those moments that made me think
about just how long I’ve been around, because I remember watching
him in that Orange jersey winning the NCAA title for Syracuse.
So to ‘Melo, my youngin’, I salute you, fam. You’re one of the
most gifted scorers this game has ever seen, and nobody can ever
take that away from you.
Anyone who watched ‘Melo play in college knew that he was gonna
make it in the league, but I specifically remember thinking he was
gonna be a problem. That’s probably why I took it upon
myself to give him a tough time when I played against him during
his rookie year. But honestly, by the time we met at All-Star
Weekend in 2004, he’d already gained my respect. I didn’t expect
that to end up being my last season in New Jersey, but when it was
time to move on, I chose to go to Denver because I thought, with
‘Melo, Marcus Camby, Nene, ‘Dre Miller and Voshon Leonard, we had a
chance to be special.
Say what you want about ‘Melo, but he always got the ultimate
respect from his teammates. When you’re in a locker room or a
huddle, there are only a few players whose presence lights a fire
under everyone. Not all players that are called "superstars" today
are capable of getting their teammates to believe in them. For
those who can, it’s the ultimate sign of respect. With ‘Melo, for
me, it happened fast.
During the seven years we spent as teammates, he won me over by
dedicating himself to his craft, and I respected him for it. It’s
no surprise that he’s still balling and taking kids damn near half
his age to school… But it’s still a beautiful thing to see.
Today, he’s still doing his thing, even going on 37 years old.
It just makes you wonder what could’ve been if he landed in
Portland a few years sooner.
As athletes, we don’t focus on the “what if?” We just deal with
the present situation and do our best to make good decisions based
on what we know or feel in the moment. If we harp on the past or
think about what could’ve been, it’s meaningless, because we can’t
change the past, you know what I mean?
By the time I signed with the Knicks in 2012, ‘Melo had already
proven himself, but things just didn’t work out for him in New
York. When it became obvious that he was gonna be moving on in
2017, of all teams, Portland was the one that made the most sense,
at least in my opinion.
Funny thing is, over the summer, right before he was traded from
New York to OKC, I remember seeing C.J. McCollum in Las Vegas. I
pulled him aside and told him that they needed to go get ‘Melo, and
he actually agreed that it would be a good look. I don’t know if
Portland tried to get him then or what, but next thing I know, I
see that 'Melo was traded to the Thunder.
On paper, teaming up with Russ and P.G. was exciting, but I
thought Paul’s game was a bit too similar to ‘Melo’s. For the most
part, they wanted the ball and did their work in the same spots,
and as for Russ, he was more effective running and being out in
transition. ‘Melo was more of a halfcourt player that wanted to set
up on offense and use up the shot clock. Russ’ style of play with
how he pushed the ball and wanted to get into open space didn’t fit
‘Melo, and especially with Paul there, it was bound to lead to
confusion as to who the second option was and where they would be
effective on the court.
On the other hand, Dame and C.J. play much slower, in the
halfcourt and they took more two-point shots and midrange jumpers.
It was such a good fit.
In hindsight, it wasn’t really a surprise that ‘Melo lasted only
one season in OKC, and it was less of a surprise that he lasted
even less time in Houston.
Mike D’Antoni and ‘Melo didn’t work well together in New York,
and if the style didn’t work for ‘Melo there, there was no reason
to think it would’ve worked in Houston. That was confirmed when,
within 10 games of being there, he did a pump fake from behind the
three-point line, stepped in and hit a long two-point shot. Then,
he turned to the bench and said, “My bad.”
I knew right then and there that it was over.
If you want to be successful in the league, you gotta understand
that you can’t dictate the game of basketball or manipulate the
game of basketball. If the game tells you to take a pull-up jumper,
you gotta take that pull-up jumper. And the teams that have won as
of late play with that mentality.
That’s definitely one of ‘Melo’s best qualities: he was always
happy to take what the defense gave him and he was effective
scoring in so many different ways. We’ve now seen that carry over
For sure, ‘Melo is fortunate that he eventually linked up with
Dame and C.J., because when you’re 34, 35 years old and two or
three different teams pass on you — especially if one lets you go
after just 10 games — it would scare most teams off. It’s like
you’re damaged goods.
Despite that, the front office in Portland decided to give ‘Melo
a shot, and he’s taken full advantage of it. I’m happy to see
For a long time, people have been saying negative things about
my youngin’ — that he’s selfish, he’s a bad teammate, he’s not
willing to sacrifice, stuff like that. But the negativity that he’s
gotten has mostly been from the media; he’s always gotten nothing
but love from the guys he was in the trenches with.
Since ‘Melo picked up a basketball, he was bred to be a
professional scorer. He was taught to put the ball in the basket,
and you know what? He became one of the best in history to ever do
'Melo is less than 300 points from becoming a top-10 scorer in
NBA history. Amazing.
[UPDATE: Anthony passed Elvin Hayes to become 10th on the
NBA’s all-time scoring list on May 5.]
Truth be told, ‘Melo never told me that he wishes he ended up
with the Blazers earlier or anything like that, cause like I said,
most of us don't like to think about the "what if?" But I’d be
lying if I didn’t admit that I wish he ended up there three or four
years earlier. If so, the Blazers might have been champions.
It’s water under the bridge at this point, though. What’s most
important is that I’ve gotten the opportunity to watch ‘Melo grow
up and become one of the greatest in history.
‘Melo will always be my youngin’, but he damn sure came a long
way since he was just a skinny teenager leading Syracuse to the
national title. And as he's proven, he ain’t done just yet.