Carmelo Anthony’s Crescent City Connections

After 19 seasons in the NBA and 1260 games, it took less than two minutes for Carmelo Anthony to announce his retirement from basketball.

Melo took to social media, releasing a video saying goodbye to the game and also including a message of encouragement to his son, Kiyan, to pick up the baton that his father is passing on to him.

Anthony, one of the top 75 players in NBA history and a sure-fire, first-ballot, hall of famer once he becomes eligible, leaves the game as one of its most prolific and complete scorers. He was one of those rare offensive talents that you could not stop, you could only hope to contain.

That’s how you finish ranked 9th all-time in scoring with more than 28,000 career points. Anthony is also the all-time leading scorer in the history of the USA Men’s Basketball, the program’s first four-time Olympian, and a three-time Olympic gold medal winner.

But the world first took notice of Carmelo Anthony during his lone season as a freshman for Syracuse University. It was 20 years ago when he led the Orange down the road to the 2003 Final Four held in New Orleans.

After beating Texas and Kansas, Syracuse would claim the lone national championship in the history of the storied program. Anthony completed what was possibly the greatest one-and-done season by earning Most Outstanding Player honors after averaging 26.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. His beaming smile as confetti fell all around him has become one of the indelible images of the NCAA tournament.

As the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, behind LeBron James and Darko Milicic, Melo wasted no time in picking up where he left off. He would finish second to James in the Rookie of the Year balloting, even after leading the Nuggets to the postseason, something LeBron was unable to do during his first season.

Anthony made his first return trip to New Orleans in January of 2004, scoring 24 points in a six-point loss to Jamaal Magliore and the Hornets.

During his time with the Nuggets, the really wasn’t a rivalry between the two cities. But things changed in 2009 when the Hornets and Nuggets met in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Both teams were hungry, with the Hornets having advanced to the conference semifinals the year before and the Nuggets trying to get out of the first round for the first time in 15 years.

It wasn’t even close.

Denver handed New Orleans a bitter gentleman’s sweep, eliminating the Hornets in five games. Anthony was magnificent in the series, averaging 24.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.8 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game, increasing his scoring output in each contest. But the worst of it came during game four at the then-New Orleans Arena.

The Hornets had fought back to win game three, 95-93, to make it a 2-1 series deficit. However, on April 27, 2009, the Nuggets played out of their minds as they beat New Orleans 121-63 in the largest rout in NBA playoff history.

After eliminating the Hornets, Carmelo would lead Denver to the Western Conference Finals, where they would fall to the Los Angeles Lakers. (Side note: the Denver Nuggets have been to the Western Conference Finals five times, in four of those they’ve faced the Lakers. The teams that defeated them all went on to win the NBA Finals.)

The would the deepest run of his playoff career. Two years later he would find himself in New York, the centerpiece of a Knicks team that also was never quite good enough. Carmelo would win a scoring championship, a division title, and set the Madison Square Garden scoring record, but the team success that his friends LeBron and D Wade were experiencing always eluded him.

He was still an All-Star, making three appearances in New Orleans, including his final one in 2017. He scored his personal best with 30 points during the 2014 All Star Game, finishing as the second-leading scorer on the Eastern squad in a 163-155 win.

The final five seasons of his career saw Anthony turn into a journeyman. Though it seemed his scoring touch hadn’t left him, the league appeared to want to send Carmelo to the sidelines whether he wanted to go or not.

Carmelo Anthony’s Career vs New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans

Stints with the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers failed to bring Anthony anywhere close to a NBA championship. Yet, he remains beloved by fans even after not playing the entire 2022-23 season.

In a way, Carmelo Anthony’s road as a superstar began in the Superdome during his one shining moment and ended in the Smoothie King Center in 2017.

The next step will be to Springfield, Mass. when he dons his orange jacket and takes his deserved place among the greatest to play the game of basketball.

Enjoy your retirement Carmelo, and thanks for the memories.

Except for that 2009 series. We don’t want to remember that.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunesSpotifyStitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @DMGrubb.


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