Carmelo Anthony was very nearly forced into an early retirement. His yearlong tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder ended with a first-round exit and a nearly endless supply of GIFs of him getting roasted defensively by Donovan Mitchell. He parlayed that into an 11-game stint with the Houston Rockets in which he was unceremoniously dumped following a slow start. Afterward? Nobody was interested in bringing in the former superstar.
Fortunately for Anthony, the Portland Trail Blazers got desperate. A series of injuries left them dangerously thin on the wing, so they signed him and empowered him to play a role far closer to his typical NBA duties rather than the “Olympic Melo” catch-and-shoot position Houston and Oklahoma City had forced him into. The results have been largely positive. While his defense remains problematic, Anthony has been a productive player this season. In all likelihood, he will have suitors in 2020 free agency.
But Anthony hasn’t forgotten how close he came to losing basketball forever. He reflected on that period on The Uninterrupted’s WRTS: After Party show and called that period of his career “rock bottom.”
“I don’t think nobody will understand what I went through emotionally to get through and to be where I’m at today,” the Blazers forward said, as transcribed by Howie Kussoy of the New York Post. “I’m talking about doubting myself. I’m talking about mentally wanting to give up.
“I hit rock bottom emotionally, and I had to build myself back up — basically by myself — to get here where I’m at today to be able to tell this story.”
Anthony is not the superstar that he once was, but he wasn’t the kind of player that Houston or Oklahoma City wanted him to be, either. He simply was not comfortable as a pure jump shooter, and his revival in Portland was based on finding a team that allowed him, in smaller doses, to be himself.
Anthony has isolated plenty this season. There has been no shortage of jab steps and mid-range jumpers. But he’s managed to fit those staples within the context of Portland’s offense, showing proper deference to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and proving, even if he has to do it in his own way, that he can be a part of a team. That, more than anything, is what has resurrected his career.