Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James were two of the biggest names leading up to the 2003 NBA Draft.
Melo, a star out of Syracuse, helped lead the Orange to a national championship as a freshman and took home NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player of the Year honors.
LeBron was dubbed a “once in a generation” athlete before even suiting up on an NBA court. He thrived at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School is hometown of Akron, Ohio, winning three state championships and one national championship.
On the The Dream Team Tapes: Kobe, LeBron & The Redeem Team from Diversion Podcasts, the Trail Blazers forward reflected on his relationship with LeBron leading up to the day his name was called.
“That conversation was like, yo you about to go to Cleveland, and he was like you about to go to Detroit, you about to be right here next to us,” Anthony recalled. “We’re going to be right next door to each other. This is the new game. We the new Magic, Bird, that’s how we were thinking at that point. We had the hype coming out of me coming out college, him being the No. 1 high school player being drafted. We had that hype around us.
Ultimately, James went No. 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Anthony went No. 3 to the Denver Nuggets in the 2003 NBA Draft. They’d suit up on the same team one year later in the 2004 Olympics, a year like no other for Team USA Basketball.
The program was influx, players declined invitations due to security concerns following 9/11 and of the 12 players selected to represent the U.S. in Athens, half were under the age of 24.
Veterans like Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and Richard Jefferson were playing alongside players like Anthony and James were both under 20 years old and coming off their rookie season.
The team was hastily assembled, resulting in Team USA’s dream team being humiliated 92-73 by Puerto Rico. It ended the team’ 24-game winning streak. Although Team USA was able to salvage bronze with a victory over Lithuania in the third-place game, the 2004 Olympics was widely known as a disaster.
Anthony reflected on being thrusted into the spotlight at such an early age. He averaged 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds as the U.S. team went 5-3.
“I think things could have been different, but we never had time,” Anthony said. “We came at the last minute. Me, D-Wade and LeBron...
Anthony and James combined to play just 139 minutes during the 2004 Olympics, a number that seems unthinkable nowadays.
But that bronze medal became a turning point and revenge tour of sorts for USA Basketball who went on to become the “Redeem Team” in 2008, which restored Team U.S.A.’s international dominance in winning the gold medal and beating teams by an average of 27.8 points per game.
Since that disappointing 2004 Olympics, team U.S.A. has gone on to win three Olympics gold medals and two FIBA World Cups. Anthony has also gone on to become one of the NBA’s greatest players of all-time.
The 18-year veteran has been named an NBA All-Star 10 times and All-NBA six times. With Portland, he’s aiming to accomplish one last milestone before he hangs up his jersey for good: He wants to win a championship.
The Trail Blazers are 21-14 heading into the All-Star Break, good for fifth in the West. Alongside a talented squad of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and others, Melo’s championship-sized dreams are still at large.