Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James have been associated since they were both selected first overall in the star-studded 2003 NBA Draft Class, with LeBron going first and Anthony third.
In the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, they won two gold medals together.
Last month, they hung out at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina, where they both supported grassroots basketball teams.
Now, they will finally play together in the NBA after Anthony agreed to a one-year agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers to play alongside James.
Anthony will be a part of a super-team that includes LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, and is the favourite to win the NBA championship.
It took almost two decades, but the first week of free agency finally delivered something the basketball world had been anticipating since 2003.
Carmelo Anthony confirmed his signing with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, forming a new partnership with LeBron James for the first time in his career.
Now, while playing very different roles, two players whose careers began similarly before diverging in completely different paths are making a championship run.
This pairing may not be the star-studded, unstoppable tandem that was envisioned 15 years ago. But it has the potential to put the ideal end on the careers of two players who were meant to be compared from the moment they entered the NBA.
James and Anthony are now partners with the Los Angeles Lakers after all these years. Because of their long-standing relationship, it may appear that it was inescapable. That, however, is not the case.
Anthony and James were never meant to be partners. They were destined to be rivals, as the faux boxing advertisement predicted.
Melo and LeBron chatted it up at Peach Jam.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) August 3, 2021
Now they will unite with the Lakers to try to win an NBA title https://t.co/9nvpq9uWkU
Although they were friendly rivals — there were even analogies to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the mid-aughts — the idea of them collaborating remained a pipe dream for over two decades.
“We knew each other since we were 15,” Anthony said as per ESPN.
“We’ve been competing against each other since we were 15.”
They spent time together and became acquainted with each other’s girlfriends, who later married. They became fathers and grew up with their children.
They worked for Nike in the same sneaker house, an NBA subculture with its own distinct personality and stakes. However, it was always a competition.
Carmelo believing that this was meant to happen
When Carmelo Anthony enters his 19th NBA season, no other active player will have appeared in more regular-season games without winning a championship.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, only Basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone has scored more points in NBA history without winning a championship.
But it’s possible that playing with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers gives the 37-year-old his best chance to win a title with his sixth NBA franchise.
“I have been thinking about winning a title for 20 years. The same thought processes.
“Now, with the team that we have and the situation that we have, we really can look forward to competing at that level. That is exciting for me,” Anthony told the Undefeated.
For those who have followed Anthony’s NBA career from the start, witnessing him play with James may feel strange.
In the 2003 NBA draft, Anthony was the third overall pick, just two slots behind James. They were friendly rivals when they entered the NBA, and they had a close fight for Rookie of the Year in 2004, with James prevailing by a hair.
As the league’s third all-time leading scorer and winner of four NBA championships, James has gone on to become arguably the greatest NBA player of all time.
Anthony is a 10-time All-Star who is second only to James among active players in scoring. Anthony and James have won Olympic gold medals with USA Basketball as teammates.
Despite this, Anthony told The Undefeated that he never imagined he and James would be teammates in the NBA. All of that changed when James persuaded a long-time friend to join the Lakers during an offseason phone call.
“We always used to talk about it in a joking way: ‘What if we get together? It would be crazy.’ But for where we are at now with both of our careers, both of our paths, I think it was meant for it to happen at this point,” Anthony said.
After averaging 13.4 points and shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range for the Portland Trail Blazers last season.
Anthony is anticipated to provide a catch-and-shoot and post-up offensive presence for the Lakers off the bench. Denver, New York, Oklahoma City, Houston, and Portland have all been stops on his NBA journey.
Anthony believes that the big-city pressure he experienced while playing for the New York Knicks prepared him for life as a Laker.
Early career of Carmelo and Lebron
Of course, James and Anthony are two of the most well-known members of the illustrious 2003 draft class, which also included Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Cleveland Cavaliers selected James first overall, while the Denver Nuggets selected Anthony third.
While both came into the NBA as instant contributors and ready-made stars, James quickly rose to become the league’s face. Their clashes were usually primetime events, especially early in their careers.
From 2007 to 2018, James compiled an impressive resume that earned him the title of best player of all time: four MVP awards, three titles, nine Finals appearances, and 11 All-NBA First Team selections.
During that time, Anthony had a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, with nine All-Star appearances, a scoring title, and four All-NBA team selections.
Anthony’s career, in comparison to that of his old buddy, draft classmate, and on-court opponent, was a let-down — a player with all-world talent who didn’t always realize his full potential and didn’t help his club reach championship contention.
From 2011 to 2018, James appeared in eight consecutive Finals, while Anthony appeared in six playoff series.
Following a move from the New York Knicks to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017, Anthony’s career took a turn for the worst. He struggled on the Thunder’s star-studded team, famously dismissing the idea of coming off the bench, and was traded the next season.
Anthony resurrected his career with the Portland Trail Blazers the previous two seasons after participating in just 10 games with the Rockets and then not playing in a game from November 2018 to November 2019.
Anthony took a bench role and turned into a productive scorer in a short amount of time. With the Blazers, he was able to rehabilitate his image.
From close rivals to close friends
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have been teammates for a long time.
They both were considered prodigies in high school and have the same superstar qualities on the basketball floor.
They both have a great jump shot and make frantic drives into the lane. They’ll both be among the finest in the game by the conclusion of their careers.
Carmelo had the tougher journey ahead of him. Carmelo worked hard to escape out of the harsh streets of Baltimore, Maryland, where he grew up without a father.
Basketball became his escape, and when his buddies were being imprisoned or shot, he was on the court escaping.
LeBron James was chosen first overall, while Carmelo Anthony was chosen third. They were both supposed to dramatically transform their respective clubs, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets, in an instant, but only Carmelo did it.
His Nuggets made the playoffs, while the Cavaliers were still a couple games away. This isn’t to suggest that LeBron’s season was a flop. He was named Rookie of the Year after averaging 20.9 points per game.
Carmelo Anthony averaged 21 points per game and, as previously stated, made the playoffs.
When James and Anthony first entered the NBA, they were both instant stars, averaging over 20.0 points per game.
Since then, James has become a 17-time All-Star, four-time NBA MVP, four-time NBA champion, and four-time NBA Finals MVP. He’s also third in league history with 35,367 points and eighth with 9,696 assists.
Anthony, on the other hand, is a 10-time All-Star who was one of the league’s best scorers during his heyday, averaging 25.5 points per game from 2005-06 to 2016-17.
With 27,370 points, Anthony ranks 10th in the NBA and 12th in NBA history.
Both James and Anthony have graduated from high school and are nearing the end of their careers. However, it will be entertaining to watch them finally play on the same team this season when Anthony joins the Lakers.
The collaboration has been in the works for nearly two decades.