For years, LeBron James faced criticism for having too significant a role in personnel decisions. He was the primary villain when the Miami Heat assembled its Big Three in 2010 with James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. While with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the perception was that James was the man behind the curtain when deals occurred. But now his new Los Angeles Lakers teammate, Carmelo Anthony, called it as he saw it when recalling the recruiting call James made to him.
After two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Anthony hit the open market this summer. But there wasn’t much interest in the 37-year-old former scoring champion. At least not until LeBron said he wanted Anthony in LA.
Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are NBA teammates for the first time
While linked for years as top picks in the legendary 2003 NBA Draft that also included Wade and Bosh, the only times Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James played together were All-Star games and in the Olympics.
Anthony spent his first eight seasons with the Denver Nuggets before a trade sent him to the New York Knicks. Seven seasons in the Big Apple preceded the rapid movement phase of his career. Since 2017, he’s been with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Trail Blazers, and the Lakers. He was also briefly on the rosters of the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks before being released.
Meanwhile, James spent 11 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seven of those came before a four-year stint with the Heat. Then he went back to The Land for another four. In 2018, The King joined the Lakers. He’s won four titles in that span, two in Miami and one each with Cleveland and LA.
Make no mistake: Anthony joined the Lakers for two seasons. First, James asked him to, and, second, he wants a ring of his own and thinks the cast in LA is his best chance to get it.
Still, he was surprised when he was approached not by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka but rather by LeBron about donning the purple-and-gold.
One phone call from LeBron James changed everything
Carmelo Anthony recently appeared on the Million Dollaz Worth of Game podcast and talked about getting the call from LeBron James.
“It was a real call, though. It wasn’t like no bulls***, it was a real call. I wasn’t expecting it from him. I mean, we talked about it years before, about getting with each other. But I heard it, and that’s my brother. I’ve known him since we was 15, 16. I heard it. ‘You, I need you.’ Say less. You ain’t gotta say nothing.
“I already knew what time it is when you hit me direct. The GM ain’t hit me. You the GM, [n-word]. He hit me. He was like, ‘Yo, champ. The time is now.’ And you felt it. I felt it.”
It’s not the first time scrutiny of James’ influence in personnel moves surfaced. In 2019, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported that agents “grumbled that no one could get on the Lakers without James’ approval.”
Of course, LeBron has his defenders. Former Cleveland GM David Griffin said it’s unfair to criticize James for his influence. Now running the show for the New Orleans Pelicans, Griffin said he sought out The King’s opinion on personnel decisions because of his basketball intellect.
Still, it was a surprise to hear a friend and contemporary come right out and say James was the guy pulling the strings for the Lakers.
Carmelo Anthony doesn’t need a ring to validate his career
As soon as he’s eligible, Carmelo Anthony is a lock for the Hall of Fame, even without a championship. He’s a top-10 scorer all time; he’s made six All-NBA teams, is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and is a 10-time All-Star.
A ring would be a nice topping on an already fantastic career. It’s hard to fault Melo for Phil Jackson completely butchering his prime years in New York. He battled two dynasties in the Kobe Bryant Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs while in Denver.
He’s also in exclusive company when it comes to scoring for more than one franchise. Anthony topped 10,000 points with both the Nuggets and Knicks. Anthony joins Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bucks and Lakers) and Elvin Hayes (Bullets and Rockets) as the only players to top the 10,000 plateau with two different teams.
However, Carmelo Anthony would be wise to do things right with the Lakers. After all, with LeBron James sitting courtside or on the floor, there’s nowhere to hide from the GM’s watchful eyes.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.