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Carmelo Anthony's Journey Back to NBA Relevance

In 2017, Carmelo Anthony found his role beginning to fade after being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.


Anthony had put up 15 straight seasons starting with his rookie year in which he averaged over 20 points per game. Scoring was his game, and until that point, he didn't have to prove his ability to anybody. But he was inevitably aging, and he was dealt away from the Knicks after seven seasons with just one playoff appearance.


Carmelo was stubborn; play after play, he would set himself up on the baseline just inside the 3-point arc. Call for the ball, pump-fake or jab (or both!), fade away from the basket. Miss or make, he would run back and go through his routine without hesitation. With the Thunder, it didn't seem like his trademark combinations were as effective. He averaged just 16.2 points per game and simply looked out of shape. Unfortunately for Anthony, things got worse before they could get better.


Following the 2017-18 season, the Thunder traded Anthony to the Atlanta Hawks to save cap space. Soon afterwards, he accepted a buyout contract from the Hawks and was put on waivers. About a month later, the Houston Rockets signed Anthony to a veterans minimum contract for $2.4 million. He played just 10 games and started twice for Houston before slowly getting his minutes taken away. In January of 2019, Anthony was traded to the Bulls and waived nine days later.


Houston Rockets small forward Carmelo Anthony dribbles the basketball up the court in an NBA basketball game.
Image via AP/Mary Altaffer

With no team convinced by his performance that season, Anthony remained a free agent. When the Rockets signed Anthony, despite his defensive struggles, they envisioned a veteran presence who would provide some versatility with his mid-range prowess. It simply didn't pan out as head coach Mike D'Antoni had planned.


Although he contemplated retirement, Carmelo got to work. NBA trainer Chris Brickley posted videos of a seemingly rejuvenated Anthony working out and shooting around at Lifetime Fitness, a gym that attracts stars for pickup games throughout the offseason. Soon enough, people became convinced that Melo wasn't washed and could find a team for the 2019-20 season.


In November of 2019, the Portland Trail Blazers signed Anthony to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract. This was his chance to prove that at age 35, he still had that mid-range magic and a better body to go with it. Although he averaged just over 15 points per game, he did so with improved efficiency compared to his time in Oklahoma City and Houston. During the season's restart in August, Anthony passed Paul Pierce for 15th on the all-time scoring list for a career total of 26,411 points.


Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates in the NBA bubble in Orlando.
Image via AP/Mike Ehrmann

During their first-round playoff matchup against the top-seed Lakers, Portland found themselves facing elimination in Game 5. What ensued was a Vintage Melo performance, as he dueled with LeBron James and scored 27 points and 7 rebounds. Although Los Angeles outlasted the Blazers, Melo gave it all he had. He called for the ball, pump-faked and jabbed, and made mid-range shot after shot (and three 3-pointers to go with it).


Just a couple of days ago, more pictures of a muscular Melo emerged. He surely proved that post-prime, he can still provide scoring value to a needy team. There have been rumors that if Chris Paul is traded to the Knicks, Anthony wants to team up with one of his best friends in the league.


Two years ago, there was a chance that Carmelo Anthony would retire from the league with a sour end to his 17-year career. He may not be as effective as this last season, but now, he's in control of where he wants to finish, whether it be with a contender or with an old friend.

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