D.A.: Carmelo Anthony's Complicated, Uncomfortable Legacy

How will Carmelo Anthony be remembered? Fondly by some, not-so-fondly by others, D.A. says

Damon Amendolara
November 19, 2018 - 3:48 pm

USA Today Images

It’s strange to watch the demoralizing saga of Carmelo Anthony. It’s not even Thanksgiving and already the Rockets have cut bait, looking to move on after just a few measly weeks of basketball. To add insult to ignominy, Houston played its best hoops in the first game after Melo’s release, drubbing the Dubs 107-86. It was as though the Rockets had dropped a Volvo from their shoulders, playing loose and passionate and crisp. Now, the Rockets have won four in a row since sending Melo to the recycling bin, including their best offensive performance of the year, 132-112 over the Kings.

What does it all mean? How does a team get that much better by dropping a future Hall of Famer who apparently did everything right? Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey insist Carmelo’s attitude was great. They’ve told anyone who would listen Anthony did exactly what was asked of him. This apparently wasn’t about surly ego or clashing with coaching (as we expected). This was simply Melo being crushed by his own weight. The Rockets were losing games, and Melo was getting less time, and that volatile cocktail was fuel for daily fascination by the circling vultures. The Star of Melo prevented him from just being another contributor for a bad team. 

Or perhaps when a polarizing Hall of Famer like Melo, especially one as popular with players as he is, no longer has it he must be treated with kid gloves. Maybe he did have his stubborn moments. Perhaps he did resent the supplementary role he was given (like in OKC). But even so, is that somewhat understandable? A man who can still score, who once upon a time was held up as the ultimate clutch performer, should now just be happy with scraps? 

The answer is probably yes. Melo has no power left like LeBron. He has no quickness like Chris Paul. He lacks the adoration of a home city like D-Wade. All of his banana boat guys are comfortable in their roles as elder statesmen. But then there's Melo, extremely popular with his peers, but a punching bag for media and fans. This is so strange for Syracuse fans who know him as the only person to deliver a national title in hoops (granted with plenty of help from teammates). Jim Boeheim has been around since the '70s. There's been incredible teams, Final Four squads, 19 different Sweet 16's. But Melo is the only one who could hang a banner for Ol' Jim. His name glistens on the state-of-the-art practice facility, his number hangs in the rafters, yet is now just an easy NBA joke.

For every memorable bucket in that '03 run, there’s equally as many awkward moments in his career. Phil Jackson famously tore him down in New York, hoping to embarrass him into dropping his no-trade clause. His former coach, George Karl, said he was “the biggest conundrum” he ever had, “a user of people, addicted to the spotlight.” Even Boeheim has added fuel to the fire by questioning his grades. He has lashed out at critics on social media. It has never been a smooth ride for Carmelo.

Now after just ten games with the Rockets, he’ll be looking for work again. This after a tortured season in Oklahoma City where everything went wrong. That after poisoned final years in New York, which followed the toxic end in Denver. Syracuse fans remember the banner, the wonderful run to a title, and it doesn’t seem to fit. How does a guy like that end up with an NBA career like this? It has never made much sense, except when you realize that for Melo, there are two careers. The one of boy genius in Orange, and the one now, sullied and depressing, an old dog running out of tricks. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.