Photo Credit: Tim Shelby, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Few players in NBA history could score with as much ease as Carmelo Anthony – or from as many places. Whether it was in isolation or spotting up at the three-point line, whether it was taking his man off the dribble or posting him up, if there was some way to put a basketball into a hoop, Melo mastered it. And now, after punishing nets for nineteen years in the NBA, Melo has finally put his prestigious basketball career to bed.
This morning, Melo officially retired from the NBA. That means two things: one, Melo’s inevitable march towards the Basketball Hall of Fame begins, and two, poor LeBron James is now the only active player remaining from their 2003 draft class. Time sure flies. And while LeBron seems as dedicated as ever to chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan, Melo appears ready to take his first steps into a post-NBA career.
Almost immediately upon stepping foot on an NBA court as a rookie with the Denver Nuggets, Melo was a force to be reckoned with – on the offensive end, at least. From his rookie year in 2003 all the way until the end of the 2016-17 season, Melo averaged over 20.0 points per game (ppg), culminating with his NBA-leading 28.7 ppg in the 2012-13 season. He was, simply put, one of the most lethal scorers in the league (and in league history).
Melo had a varied scoring skills set like few others. Like all great scorers, Melo has a knack for getting to, and finishing, at the rim. Standing at 67 and weighing in at 238 lbs., Melo was deceptively large for his fluidity. He was consistently able to keep smaller defenders on his hip as he drove to the lane, and larger defenders had no chance at staying in front of him and his outstanding ball handling skills. He was also excellent at drawing fouls and he converted his freebies at an impressive 81.4% clip.
What stood out more than his work around the basket, though, was his ability to score from way, way out – and from nearly any angle imaginable. Floaters. Turnarounds. Fadeaways. Step-backs. Hook shots. They're all in his repertoire.
While few would argue that Melo is the greatest scorer in NBA history, you can make an awfully compelling case that he's on the short list. Michael Jordan’s got a pretty good case (obviously). And you could basically get away with calling Kevin Durant the 2.0 model of Carmelo Anthony. But if your name is being mentioned alongside MJ and KD, you’ve done something right.
Now, was Melo a good defender? Uh, no. Nor was he a particularly good passer (is selfish too strong a word?). Twice in a game during his career, Melo passed the half-century mark in points, but did not record a single assist. But while he may not have made a point of passing a lot during games, this isn’t to say he couldn’t pass at all. In fact, Melo had six career 10+ assist games, with his career-high of 11 coming in 2009 versus the KD and Russell Westbrook-led Oklahoma City Thunder.
Still, Melo was put on this planet to be a scorer first…and second, and third. Passing came fourth. Maybe – only if Melo isn’t feeling that step-back 25-footer. Good thing those step-back 25-footers went in at a pretty good rate.
And that’s why Melo’s going to walk into the Hall of Fame – and not because they let just about anyone in these days. Sure, Melo might not have an NBA championship on his resume, but his scoring prowess rivals some of the biggest names in NBA history and his performance on the 2008 “Redeem Team” etched his name into Olympic and American basketball lore for the rest of time. Plus, he got a title with Syracuse as a freshman in college (and yes, for the purposes of the Basketball Hall of Fame, that counts). If these Hall of Fames exist to tell the story of that sport, then basketballs wouldn’t really be complete without the walking bucket that was Carmelo Anthony. Stay mellow, Melo.