How Carmelo Anthony has remained relevant in the NBA

Published May 29, 2021, 8:30 AMRenee Ticzon

After years of being a superstar, Carmelo Anthony has found peace in playing a reduced role.

Considered one of the greatest scorers of his generation, Carmelo Anthony is a respected veteran across the league. His ability to create shots and break down defense made him a favorite among the NBA community. In his prime, Melo was an excellent isolation scorer.

Prior to drafting Anthony, Denver was tied for the worst record in the NBA at 17-65. After Melo arrived, the Nuggets made seven playoff appearances, one going as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2009. He was the franchise’s superstar and his game constantly improved year after year.

Seven and a half seasons later, Melo was traded to the New York Knicks where his scoring exploits continued. During his time with the Knicks, Melo averaged 24.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists as New York made the playoffs four times.

Despite being in his prime, Melo became one of the most misunderstood basketball players. His inability to make plays for others and his questionable decision making also put him in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. There was criticism left and right.

At the same time, the NBA was changing. Team systems focused on getting everybody involved instead of banking on a player’s ability to play iso. Melo, who is one of the best isolation players of his generation, found himself in a situation where his playing style was no longer thriving.

Basketball pundits started portraying Melo as a liability, stating that his inefficient scoring and inability to pass the ball was harming the teams he was on. He was said to not be a team player, putting more focus on his individual career than his team’s success. People thought it was the beginning of his downfall.

That’s when Melo shocked everyone. Melo adjusted, a move nobody expected. After many years of being the go-to guy, Melo decided it was time to take a step back and embrace a new role.

Though there were times that he still thought that he could start instead of coming off the bench, fans saw glimpses of the “new Melo” with the OKC Thunder and Houston Rockets. In Oklahoma City, he played behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George. In Houston, he played behind James Harden and Chris Paul. Melo’s scoring output dropped drastically, which was expected because he wasn’t getting the same amount of touches like he used to.

Melo was still trying to adjust to his new role, and it was extremely difficult for him to get into the groove of things with the limited minutes. He ended up only playing one season each for the Thunder and Rockets. Many thought it would be the end of Carmelo Anthony. 

Until Portland came into the picture. The Blazers gave Melo another shot and signed him to a one-year non-guaranteed deal in 2019.

Since his move to the Blazers, Melo has transformed into a completely different player. He has settled into a position that has kept him relevant, making the most of his aging career. It also helped that the Trail Blazers knew how to maximize his skill and talent.

Anthony being the third scoring option took away some of the pressure off of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the team’s two main offensive weapons. And while Lillard is the franchise player, Melo has become the backbone and leader in the locker room. And because he was willing to take a back seat, his career was prolonged. This season he was able to pass Elvin Hayes for 10th on the league’s all-time scoring list.

His success the past two seasons with Portland can definitely be considered a comeback. Coincidentally, this monumental season for Melo brings him back home, in a playoff series against the Nuggets, the team he was once the face of.

In Game 1 of their series, he received boos from the crowd he played in front of for several years. But that didn’t really affect him. Melo is just happy to be where he is after all he’s been through.

“The love is there, man. They love me and they hate me, I can’t do nothing about that. What I can do is smile and enjoy myself and have fun, and play basketball. Whatever they say, it’s not my concern,” Melo said after the game.

Melo has truly transformed into a different type of player. He now knows he’s far from being the main guy anymore. His maturity and experience has allowed him to embrace this new role.

His ability to adapt to the new era of the NBA helped extend not just his career, but his relevance to a team. The 36-year-old Carmelo Anthony has found peace and contentment in giving what his team needs.