“It’s a testament to my perseverance”: Melo’s journey into the NBA’s top 10 all-time scorers

Two years ago Carmelo Anthony was out of the league. It was the darkest time of his career. His attempts at getting noticed and eventually back into the league were falling on deaf ears and blind eyes.

But then the call finally came and Anthony found new home in Portland. The welcoming reassurance of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Terry Stotts was all Anthony needed to get back to hooping with confidence.

In his fourth game with the Blazers, he passed Alex English and moved into 18th on the scoring list, and since then, it seems every other week coach Terry Stotts was handing him a game ball for passing another legend … Kevin Garnett … John Havlicek … Paul Pierce … Tim Duncan … Dominique Wilkins … Oscar Robertson … Hakeem Olajuwon …

And then on Monday night, Anthony moved past Elvin Hayes and into 10th place all time when he hit a 3-pointer while being fouled by Danilo Gallinari with 11:09 left in the second quarter. After he made the free throw for a 4-point play, Anthony had 27,316 points. Up next is Moses Malone, who has 27,409 points.

While he holds a deep respect for the history of the game, Anthony half-heartedly celebrated each milestone, because it didn’t reflect his mindset, or where he envisioned himself. Each accomplishment focused on what had happened, not what was ahead. And each rung on the scoring list felt like it was linking him to the end of his career more than it was elevating him to new heights.

But top 10 all time? Yeah that is special. Even Anthony recognized that in the lead up to the moment.

“You are talking about 10 of the best scorers to ever play this game,” Anthony said. “You know, on the planet, right? There’s a lot of great players who have come through this league who have scored the basketball, but when you are talking about 10 … and there’s only nine in front of you? That’s a different group to be a part of.”

He joins the top 10 of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal and Moses Malone.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Karl Malone
LeBron James
Kobe Bryant
Michael Jordan
Dirk Nowitzki
Wilt Chamberlain
Shaquille O’Neal
Moses Malone
Carmelo Anthony

In the days leading up to the historic moment, Anthony did a lot of reflecting, almost soaking up the moment as it neared.

“You know what? It’s a testament to my perseverance,” Anthony said. “Regardless of what was said, or who didn’t like it, or who loved it, I stayed true to who I am, and to myself. I never did anybody wrong, I always supported people, always gave advice … so honestly, it’s a blessing. To be in Year 18 and reaching this milestone, I will look at it more like that, a blessing.”

The reflection didn’t stop at his 18 years in the NBA. HIs reflection went back to his childhood days in Baltimore, the place he blames and credits for his success.

“It was bad. It was the hood. It was the streets,” Anthony said. “There was no time to mope and put your head down. You had to keep going.”

“You always had to stay sharp. You always had to be ready, at all costs, for anything. So for me, it always became about preparation. The worst-case scenario, you have to be prepared for that. And to this day, I still operate like that. It helps me out a lot. Some people say, ‘Melo, why you always talking about the worst thing that can happen?’ It’s because at the end of the day, I’m so used to the worst things happening.”

That survival mindset translated to the NBA. Whether it was when he wanted out of Denver, or played under the spotlight of New York and the criticism of Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, or went more than a year without any NBA team wanting to hire him, or agreeing to come off the bench in Portland, Anthony says he has shown perseverance.

“I blame and I credit everything on my environment,” Anthony said. “Because without that environment, I wouldn’t know how to bounce back from feeling defeated. Or lost. It would be harder for me to bounce back if I didn’t have those experiences.”

When Anthony was in his seventh season in Denver and things weren’t going great, he got a tattoo around his collarbone. It reads: “No Struggle No Progress”

“It was how I felt at that time,” Anthony said. “It was like, you can’t move forward unless you are struggling, unless you go through the pain. You have to walk through the fire in order to come out good on the other side. I’ve always believed that.”

It was more than 10 years later before that message pierced more than skin deep.

In 2018, 16 years into what will certainly be a Hall of Fame career, no NBA team would sign Anthony. He parted ways with Houston 10 games into the season, and when no teams stepped in to sign him, the Rockets traded him to Chicago in January. The Bulls waived him and Anthony waited. And waited. And waited. More than a year went by and no team signed him.

“Most people’s defining moment comes earlier in their career; mine came in Year 16,” Anthony said.

That defining moment is much different than mosts. His defining moment was also his lowest moment. A humbling, but necessary one.

He had to drill past the pain, the anger and the embarrassment of being out of the league and start asking some hard questions: Why did he play the game? What did he love about it? What mattered to him? What did he need to change?

“Even though it was a bad time — well, I don’t want to say bad time, but a down time for me — it was a game-changer for me,” Anthony said. “Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, it just changed the game for me. It made me lock into a different perspective.”

The influence and impact Anthony had on a generation of basketball players will be one of his lasting legacies, one that figures to continue long after he leaves his final imprint on the all-time scoring list. It is an element of his legacy that Anthony does not take lightly. Of all the benefits he has brought to the Trail Blazers — his late-game scoring, his leadership, his confidence — coaches and teammates always bring up the positive influence he has had on the team’s young players.

“And that’s something I was always aware of,” Anthony said. “I always had that awareness of the power that I have, well, I don’t want to say power, but the effect I have on people. And honestly, the basketball, they watched me play and were fans of mine, but also aside from the game, they watched how I carried myself, too. I know I’m not perfect — I done did have so much shit happen to me throughout my career — but I’ve always seemed to bounce back and come back stronger. I’ve never complained, I’ve never wavered, I’ve never pointed fingers, I’ve never said it was somebody else’s fault, and even if it wasn’t my fault, I always said it was my fault. So I think when people see my realness and authenticity, that’s what gravitates people toward me.”

If one thing has become clear since Anthony returned to the NBA with Portland it’s how deeply he is respected by his peers. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say Anthony is more revered and borderline idolized by NBA players than he is by fans.

His peers recognize his greatness and see past the narrative that was built up to tear him down.

The recognition and praise has been appreciated and nice. But now the top 10 is in his rearview mirror and quickly out of sight as Melo and company have their sights set on a bigger prize.

“This is not no, you know, farewell for me,” Anthony said. “I grasp the magnitude of it, but as far as reflecting, it’s hard for me to do at this moment. I’m here to play basketball, I want to win … the playoffs … let’s go. I came back to Portland for that reason.”


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