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Carmelo Anthony: Evolution of a Legacy

Carmelo Anthony

There has been a lot of chatter about Carmelo Anthony as of late, and he wasn’t having it anymore. The 10-time NBA All-star recently sat down with Stephen A. Smith for an exclusive interview on “First Take,” to tackle all the rumors in circulation.

For many, the debate over Melo’s viability as the “Big Three” era ends is rife with scrutiny. Even former player turned ESPN correspondent, Jalen Rose, entered the fray to offer his thoughts on the matter.

Naysayers believe he’s washed up. Fans are reeling from watching him be repeatedly dumped. Meanwhile, Melo insists he can play and rejects the idea of a ‘farewell tour.’ While the cacophony of voices argue over his potential landing spot, or if a landing spot is even available for the upcoming season, the thing that comes to mind is: Legacy.

Professional Black athletes are among the most scrutinized humans on earth. But Carmelo isn’t just Black. He’s Afro-Latino, and proud of his Puerto Rican heritage. For many in PR, where he has extensive ties, he’s a hero. Melo came of age during his NBA career at a time when the components of his hybrid identity were still not fully endorsed. In this way, he shares something distinctly beautiful with another Boricua, and famed artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat. He’s also the echo of his father, Carmelo Iriarte, an active member of the Young Lords during ’60s era New York.

Walking in his father’s footsteps, who died of cancer when Melo was two, it seems apropos that his path was paved with a road that led him to the front lines of the fight for quality education and empowerment of teachers, the island of Puerto Rico, as well as the now infamous moment at the ESPYS where he stood with his fellow athletes to deliver a powerful message on the significance of taking a stance against police brutality.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Trayvon became the face of our community. We had to go to war for him.

Carmelo Anthony

Historically, the media’s obsession over player performance has pushed other critical issues to the margins. Carmelo’s career unfolded through our TV screens, by design, as a collage of chosen images that often left out some of the most significant pieces on the cutting room floor. Leaving us with a storyline that left no room to witness his individual growth. The upheaval that the island of Puerto Rico has experienced shows that from hurricanes to political unrest, the voices of its highest profile citizens can make a difference, as well as empower the voices of the non-famous to push for change.

Sports analysts have referred to Carmelo as ‘having a bad attitude.’ This type of language is then weaponized to foster a negative image, or to portray an athlete as divisive in order to manipulate headlines and damage their cache. There is a fine line between the business of the NBA, with such a high emphasis on marketing and ticket sales, and the fully-fleshed out lives of the athletes it employs. That line is often blurred so much that we conflate opinion with fact.

Whether Carmelo Anthony will have a shot to play with any of the 30 teams in the league in 2019-2020 season, is anyone’s guess. But even if the curtain closes on his prolific All-star, 3-time gold medal, scoring champ’s career, the man Melo became after 16 years of the limelight, shows how individuals with stubborn voices are capable of shifting the conversation on social inequity in America, serving as a call to action for every citizen of this great land.


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