Portland Trail Blazers: Carmelo Anthony punctuates redemption tour with GW

NBA Portland Trail Blazers Carmelo Anthony (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
NBA Portland Trail Blazers Carmelo Anthony (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Carmelo Anthony continues to prove that he belongs in the NBA, most recently by hitting a game-winner to lift the Portland Trail Blazers over the Raptors

Carmelo Anthony dropped a season-high 28 points and hit a patented mid-range game-winner against the defending champion Toronto Raptors (ironically in the same spot he did so against the Raptors while playing with the Denver Nuggets 10 years ago) looking totally rejuvenated.

After being out of the league for a year, Carmelo is making one of the greatest sports comebacks of all time. This is not one of the greatest comebacks just because of its longevity or even the overall quality of Melo’s performance compared to the rest of the players in the NBA currently.

This is one of the greatest comebacks of all time because this dude was a hero to people in the 2000s and early-mid 2010s, but recently created a new threshold for how low a superstar player’s reputation can sink before making his triumphant return.

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Carmelo was on the brink of extinction for no valid reason other than talk that was equivalent to that of a high school rumor. However, in the era of social media, these rumors are easily able to spread like wildfire and tarnish legendary careers…but never to the extent we nearly saw with Carmelo Anthony.

Up until the 2017 offseason when he was traded from the New York Knicks to the Oklahoma City Thunder he was a 10-time all-star averaging nearly 25 points per game for his career, one of the top 20 scorers (2nd all-time of active players) in NBA history and had made the playoffs in 10 of his 14 seasons.

He had almost no hope of making it to the postseason with a dismal roster surrounding him in New York those last four seasons. Melo entered the NBA in the legendary 2003 draft class with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh being constantly compared to them as a legend in the making throughout the entire first decade of his career. Oh, how quickly people forget…

Once Melo was traded from the Knicks to the Thunder this is where things really went south. Melo has the respect of players around the league, but Russell Westbrook was simply too ball-dominant at this point in his career with Paul George being the second option to have a third option like Carmelo Anthony thrive and be able to be himself in this environment. Melo balked at the idea of coming off the bench in his opening press conference with the Thunder, but by the end of the season in the playoffs, he was actually benched.

Every analyst was quick to jump on the best headline to get their story out, which was that Melo couldn’t play anymore. This idea reached all-time levels of ridiculousness once he signed with the analytically driven Houston Rockets as a free agent. They had courted him for many years and even though his second last game with the team featured Melo scoring 28 points on 9-12 shooting he scored only two points on 1-11 shooting the following game and was cut from the team like a freshman trying out for the varsity team, not a future NBA hall of fame legend who was an all-star less than two years prior.

After multiple great seasons Melo essentially had one bad non-all star year with the Thunder and because of his age and simply being in the wrong role was declared to be an extinct dinosaur in today’s NBA before the Rockets literally blamed their record on a hall-of-fame player…after only 10 games! Carmelo Anthony was scapegoated and nearly blacklisted from the league primarily because of analytics and poor fits that spiraled into a hot media topic.

Ironically, while all this was going on and these two teams successfully courted Melo, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers were publicly recruiting Carmelo to come to their team.

Once Melo was cut from the Rockets (seriously, a hall of fame player cut from a team nights after scoring 28 points on 75% shooting), he was effectively on a deserted island only allowed to shoot his silky smooth jumpers in an empty gym or with other players worse than him who currently have jobs in the league primarily because analysts and social media were so heavily critical of him.

The season went by with rumors popping up and every single great player presently playing in the NBA saying Melo should be on a team.  All the articles about how we had seen the last of Melo in the NBA were being written and eventually, there were no articles being written as he was being forgotten…until one fateful night when the notification on everyone’s phone came up out of nowhere that got basketball fans around the world jumping and screaming that the Trail Blazers were giving Carmelo Anthony his well-deserved shot to prove he belonged in the league all this time and just needed the right role.

Since coming back, Melo has had multiple efficient shooting nights, putting in a great defensive effort including stealing the ball for a buzzer-beating 3 and the consistency of these performances is only getting better as he gets his legs back after a year off.

These nights have culminated with multiple 20-point performances, a double-double with his extremely underrated rebounding prowess, impressive defensive efforts, efficient shooting (His true shooting percentage is over 50% this season for those of you obsessed with analytics), a player of the week award and his effort against the Raptors, culminating in a 28 point, 10/17 shooting night where he hustled on defense and hit the game-winner looking not only like he belongs in the league or is meant to be a starter, but was the best player on the floor amongst multiple all-stars.

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Carmelo was never supposed to be here again and he didn’t just return but proved that this is not a fluke as he CAN and WILL thrive in the NBA at 35 years old and beyond no matter what any analysts or analytics say because there is no statistic for hustle, heart, and determination.

Welcome Back, Melo.