Melo's Transition Game
Drug bust. Bar fight. Gangster cameo. Benched at the Olympics. Feuds with his coaches. After a season to forget, 21-year-old Carmelo Anthony is an NBA star who’s now learning to live without the ball.
One afternoon during a preseason workout I go to see Anthony at the Pepsi Center. I find him half dressed, pants sliding low, seated in the air-conditioned calm of the Nuggets' locker room. He's shirtless, and for the first time I see his tattoos up close: "Mary" on one forearm; his father's nickname, "Curly," (his father's nickname) and "R.I.P." on the other. He's got a basketball in flames with his initials on his right shoulder. And on each bicep, reminders of lessons learned: "When The Grass Is Cut The Snakes Will Show" and "Who Can I Trust?"
Carmelo Anthony says he wants to own Denver. He says he wakes up in the middle of the night because he gets so excited about the plans he has for giving back and rebuilding. Breaking ground on a low-income housing development is on his to-do list. It's a noble and mature game plan. Hearing him talk like that you get the sense that he's found a home, and maybe found the person or people he can trust-that he's no longer on an island. He sounds like a budding sports-town icon, and that conjures up a comparison to Denver's last sports icon, John Elway. He would love to talk to Old No. 7. "I can't get in contact with him," Anthony says. "But I'm trying. I'm trying to just tell him, 'Give me the torch.'"
Anthony and Elway couldn't be more different. Perhaps the best example of how disparate the California/Stanford guy and the Baltimore/Syracuse guy really are is this: John Elway has a gazillion car dealerships. Carmelo Anthony owns one custom car shop in Aurora. Anthony gets it: "Elway's got the places where you buy the cars. We got the place where you fix 'em up." One thing it seems Anthony and Elway have in common is a commitment to the city. Yet while Elway has been cruising off into the sunset, Anthony has just rolled into town. And if there are a few more bumps in the road for Anthony, the mother in me wants to give him a little time. In life, just like in basketball, the kid is working on his transition game. m
Kate Meyers is a Louisville-based freelance writer.