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.
Boeheim comes off as a self-effacing, caring dad, even on the phone. "As a parent, you like to say, 'I love all my kids,'" he says. "But I think even as a parent you might have a favorite. He's certainly one of mine. His attitude was always great. You don't expect a freshman to say, 'We've got these games.' You're in the Final Four and it's a pretty big eye-opener for most people and he played his best."
At Oak Hill, it was all about tough discipline. At Syracuse, it was all sweet adulation. In the NBA, Anthony would learn, it's all business.
The Detroit Pistons had the second pick of the 2003 draft, and team representatives had left Anthony feeling certain that he was their guy. Anthony couldn't have been happier. The Pistons were a team on the rise, coached by living legend Larry Brown. Three days before the draft, Anthony was supposed to work out for the Pistons. It was a done deal, as far as Anthony was concerned, and the workout seemed like a get-to-know-one-another session before the first season of the rest of his life. However, that morning Anthony got a phone call from his agent, Calvin Andrews, who told him the workout was off; the Pistons had decided to take someone else, Darko Milicic.
Anthony ended up the third pick, going to the Denver Nuggets. "I didn't know anything about Denver," Anthony says. "The only thing I knew about Denver is the airport is in the middle of nowhere. I was worried. Coming from New York, Baltimore, it's like, OK, going to the Midwest-what's this?" Denver is a white-tipped airport, white-covered peaks, white people, home of the blond-haired, blue-eyed, very white Broncos icon John Elway.
If Denver wasn't sure what to make of Anthony-and it wasn't-that all changed when he led the Nuggets to the play-offs for the first time in almost a decade, smiling along the way. All of sudden the team went from punch line to headline. And all of sudden, the black kid from back East was that grinning, cuddly Melo. All of sudden, Anthony was going to the Olympics. The Olympics! "The town started embracing me," Anthony says. "The fans were cool. And I'm like, alright, I gotta create something here now. Around the city people started falling in love with me, with us, the team." It was like being the Beatles back in Syracuse. And then, just as quickly, it wasn't.
That summer in Greece the Olympic team, with a roster of superstars, was losing games no one thought they should lose. Certainly not Olympic coach Larry Brown. The same coach whose Pistons had passed on Anthony, Brown put him on the bench. Brown complained specifically about Anthony to the press. "He's not buying into what we're doing; he's having a hard time accepting what we're doing. You can tell by the way he acts, by the way he plays." Anthony was lambasted in the press for being selfish and a whiner. His smile faded. His tall frame collapsed into a full-body slouch on the bench while the world watched. Publicly, Anthony said nothing. Privately, he made a call.