“I’m done with it, I’m at peace with it. I had already disconnected from the game at that point. I was done with the game.”
Those are the words of Carmelo Anthony on CJ McCollum’s Pull Up Podcast talking about his nearly year-long exile from the NBA.
Anthony went through months of self-doubt where he questioned his ability. He wondered what he had done wrong. He was worried his playing days were done.
A 10-time All-Star who is on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list… out of a job.
“I had a real conversation with my wife and she was just like, ‘At the end of the day, if it’s over it’s over… you can’t control that. You’ve been in the league 16 years. Who can say that they played in the league for 16 years?’ And I was like, ‘That makes sense,’ but I wasn’t trying to hear it.”
For many days and months, Anthony struggled with his new reality of being blacklisted from the NBA. It took an emotional toll on him and he began to reluctantly accept his new reality.
Basketball was irrelevant to me. So, I had checked out from basketball because I knew that was the only way I could be a peace with walking away from the game.
“For me to love the game the way that I love the game, and to love something and it don’t love you back the same way, I gotta get away from it. And that’s where my mindset was at.”
And as the phone from teams remained quiet, Carmelo Anthony pondered one more decision.
“I told my agent ‘Nobody's calling? You know what? If nothing happens by this date, I'm announcing my retirement. I’m at peace with letting the game go.’”
Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose of CAA Sports tried to take a more measured approach, however.
“He was just like ‘I understand that, but I'm not letting you announce your retirement.’”
In the background, though, two worlds were beginning to collide.
The Portland Trail Blazers were off to a disappointing start. After suffering season ending injuries to Zach Collins and Rodney Hood and while Jusuf Nurkic remained on the mend from his leg injury late last season, the Blazers were in need of bodies. Not just any body, but a starting-caliber player. Not to mention, the Blazers were cap strapped and unable to make a trade.
At the same time, Carmelo was having a conversation with family.
“I remember my son and my wife used to always tell me, ‘Why you don’t go to Portland?’ and I used to be like ‘What?! Portland?’ …my wife used to tell me all the time, ‘Why you don't go to Portland?’ She [would say]…’Portland—that’s the space for you.’ And I didn't understand what she was saying, but I knew what she was saying afterwards…from a mental standpoint…you need to just get away, you got to go. Don't try to stretch yourself out of going to—‘Go to a place where you're going to have fun, you're going to be at peace, you’re going to enjoy the game again, you’re going to get the love back…’ and then you guys [Portland Trail Blazers] called right after that.”
Carmelo Anthony signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with the Portland Trail Blazers officially on November 19th. In just a couple of weeks, after he won Western Conference Player of the Week, the Blazers guaranteed his contract, a one-year deal worth $2.15M.
In the 50 games he’s played with the Trail Blazers, Anthony is averaging 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. The injury bug has continued for the Blazers, resulting in a 29-37 record and in 9th place in the Western Conference standings. Despite the trials and tribulations, Anthony remains steadfast in his decision to join the team.
Portland came at a pivotal time in my life, in my career,” Carmelo said. “I needed Portland at this point in time— what I was looking for as far as on the court and off the court. I needed it. I needed this serenity of being in Portland. I needed this space. I needed this me time to figure out me and to get my mind right and to get my body right. I really needed Portland. As much as they needed me from a basketball standpoint, I needed Portland for other reasons. I always say god don’t make no mistakes. This came at a pivotal time for me and I’m taking advantage of it and it shows.
The NBA season remains suspended and will be re-evaluated after 30 days. Who knows what the future will hold. But, one thing is for sure is that this marriage between the two parties happened at the right time, in the right moment.
Listen to Carmelo Anthony’s entire conversation with CJ McCollum on the Pull Up Podcast here.