Carmelo Anthony quickly became one of the league’s top talents with the Denver Nuggets. However, Anthony‘s career could have begun on a much different path. More than 18 years later, the 10-time All-Star still can’t move past his NBA draft experience that would have changed his entire legacy.
Richard Hamilton convinced Pistons would have won three NBA titles with Carmelo Anthony
Anthony sits as a significant part of the vaunted 2003 draft class that featured several Hall of Fame talents.
The Syracuse product’s NBA path immediately began with some controversy as the Pistons elected to take Darko Milicic at the second overall pick. It led him to be selected by the Denver Nuggets at the third overall spot.
In hindsight, it’s a decision that has received much scrutiny given how their respective careers unfolded. Meanwhile, former Pistons great Richard Hamilton sees it as a lost opportunity to secure three NBA titles alongside Anthony.
“You bring Carmelo to us, I think the narrative would have been totally different on his career,” Hamilton said via All The Smoke podcast in June 2020. “Because the thing we would be talking about is, alright, Carmelo now has three championships already. Now Melo’s thinking about, can he do this by himself? That would have been the question mark going into the negotiation for his next contact.’
“‘Okay, I got three already, now maybe I want to venture out and see if I can do it on my own.’ That would have been the narrative on Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo Anthony would have been a champion.”
Anthony’s reputation and legacy would have taken an entirely different path, which still bothers him to this day.
Carmelo Anthony remains haunted by his NBA draft experience: ‘Til this day I still think about that’
Anthony spent his first 6 1/2 NBA seasons with the Nuggets, where he established himself as one of the game’s best talents.
However, his draft-day experience still haunts him as he full-heartedly believes the Pistons should have selected him.
“It would have changed the course of my career,” Anthony said during a recent appearance on the All The Smoke podcast. “Til this day I still think about that. They promise me ‘hey we are taking you.’ I am talking about it all the way up to draft day. In my mind, I am thinking I am going to Detroit. They have Chauncey [Billups], Tayshaun [Prince], and all these guys there. Sheed came in the middle of the year. That’s what really put them over the top.
“They were like ‘You are going to share time with Tayshaun.” I was like I am going to come and do my thing. I don’t know how long I am going to do time with him, but I am going to do my thing. Then they won it, my luck. Honestly, if I was there they win another one. I am not jumping on this three-peat, but we would go back-to-back if am there. In that second year, I would have learned from those vets and come back a totally different player.”
Anthony would have played alongside a strong core group with Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, and possibly Rasheed Wallace. The veteran leadership would have molded him into a different player through his mindset and approach to the game.
It’s hard to argue against the Pistons at least vying for another NBA title, but it’s a what-if scenario that will never have an answer.
Lakers present an opportunity to finally win an NBA title
The haunting draft-day memory aside, Anthony is entering a promising situation in his 19th season.
The 37-year-old is joining forces with close friend LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers with a chance to compete for his first NBA title. Anthony will need to play a crucial role off the bench as a reliable scorer and shooting option.
He’s coming off a solid campaign, where he embraced a bench role with the Portland Trail Blazers as he averaged 13.4 points in 24.5 minutes per contest while hitting at a 40.9% clip from 3-point range. Anthony will have an opportunity to become a much-needed scoring punch as a reserve that could play a pivotal factor.
Beyond that, it may be his last legitimate chance to compete for an NBA title.