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.
From his hotel room in Greece, Anthony calls Kiki Vandeweghe's house in the middle of the Denver night. He tells Vandeweghe how much he wants to make this work, to be useful to his team, to make Brown happy. Vandeweghe explains that sitting on the bench is a unique experience for him and that trying to take charge on the court is not the only way to contribute.
"A lot of players, if they were going through a tough time, especially the stars would say, 'Oh well, it doesn't matter,'" Vandeweghe says about the call. "But he was so concerned about making his coach happy and being useful to his team and making his team successful. That doesn't happen that often. You don't get a player like that."
Anthony's dreadful Olympic summer was followed by a dreadful fall. A DVD surfaced. It was an amateur video of black men in the Baltimore ghetto where Anthony grew up. The men in the DVD talked about "niggas" who "snitch." In one scene Anthony stood next to one of the guys who apparently would like to see these "rats get AIDS and die." The public didn't seem to buy Anthony's explanation that he'd just been hanging out in the old hood and personally did not subscribe to the snitch-killing message. Next came the newspaper reports of his fight in a New York nightclub. Only weeks later, he was busted at DIA, caught with marijuana in his backpack. Watching ESPN one night, Anthony hears a sports reporter refer to him and LeBron James as "two phenoms going in the opposite direction." The reporter depicts the Cleveland Cavalier James as a gifted athlete carrying himself with dignity and doing it right, while Anthony is a gifted athlete acting like a knucklehead thug.
When I ask Anthony about these controversies he's no longer mellow in his chair. He leans forward, then back, throws his arms open wide, as if, to say, OK, then, I'm bringing the truth. He's animated and agitated. Not agitated at being asked-to hear him tell it, he's agitated that he was a kid and nobody gave him the benefit of the doubt. "The DVD," he says. "I'm just back home in my neighborhood showing love. Then the thing comes out and I'm like, 'What DVD?'"