Carmelo Anthony Is the Only Top-5 Pick From the 2003 NBA Draft Without a Championship but Could (And Should) Get His Best Chance Next Season

We publish independently audited information that meets our strong editorial guidelines. Be aware we may earn a commission if you purchase anything via links on our pages.
Carmelo Anthony during a Blazers-Kings matchup in March 2021

The 2003 NBA draft class will forever be seen as one of the greatest in history. It may not have the overall depth of the ’96 class that included three NBA MVP winners (Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash) and arguably the greatest shooter in NBA history (Ray Allen), but it’s certainly one of the best top-heavy classes we’ve ever seen. LeBron James, of course, was taken with the No. 1 overall pick, and Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade rounded out the top five.

Okay, so Milicic didn’t exactly work out and will be the only player taken in the top five not to make the Hall of Fame. However, he does have something Carmelo doesn’t have: an NBA championship ring. In fact, Darko was actually the first to get one and Anthony, despite being one of the league’s all-time greatest scorers, is the only player from the top five not to win a title. However, Melo doesn’t seem to be ready to give up the dream just yet and could have his best chance at a ring in 2021-22.

Carmelo Anthony has scored the 10th-most points in NBA history

Carmelo Anthony during a Blazers-Kings matchup in March 2021
Carmelo Anthony during a Portland Trail Blazers-Sacramento Kings matchup in March 2021 | Alika Jenner/Getty Images

In 18 NBA seasons with the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and Portland Trail Blazers, Anthony has scored 27,370 regular-season points, which puts him in the No. 10 slot on the league’s all-time scoring list.

Of those top 10 scorers, Carmelo and Karl Malone are the only players never to win an NBA title. As for the other eight (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone), they’ve combined to win 29 NBA titles. Anthony is also the lone player in the top 10 to never win NBA MVP. The other nine players combined to win the award 27 times.

However, Anthony is the only player in men’s USA Basketball history to compete in four separate Olympics and is the only player to win three gold medals. Kevin Durant could match that total if the U.S. wins the gold in Tokyo.

Anthony is the only player taken in the top five of the 2003 NBA draft without an NBA title

In addition to being one of two top-10 all-time scorers to never win an NBA title, Carmelo is also the only player taken in the top five of the 2003 NBA draft without a ring.

Milicic, who was taken one spot ahead of Anthony in ’03 by Detroit, was actually the first to get a ring as he won a title with the Pistons as a rookie, although he wasn’t a big contributor. After averaging just 1.4 points in 34 regular-season games, Darko averaged 0.1 points in the postseason and didn’t score a single point in the NBA Finals. But a ring is a ring, right?

Wade was the next to win one as he led the Miami Heat to a championship in 2006 with an incredible performance in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. D-Wade averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.7 steals, and one block over the six-game series and easily won NBA Finals MVP.

And, of course, LeBron and Bosh won back-to-back titles alongside Wade in Miami in 2012 and 2013. James then won a third ring with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and a fourth with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. The closest Anthony ever came to even reaching the NBA Finals was in 2009 when he led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost in six games to Kobe’s Lakers.

Carmelo may get his best shot at a title in 2021-22 alongside LeBron James with the Lakers

After spending the last two seasons with the Blazers, Carmelo is now an unrestricted free agent and it seems highly unlikely he’ll return to Portland for a third season. So that means he’ll be looking for a new home for the 2021-22 season and the most plausible destination seems to be the Lakers.

Yes, we’re keenly aware that every big name out there in trades or free agency has been linked to the Lakers but this move could actually happen, unlike some of the other rumors that have been thrown around in recent weeks. LA isn’t going to have a lot of money to spend and many roster spots are going to be filled by veterans willing to sign for the league minimum. Anthony had no issue playing for the minimum in Portland and likely wouldn’t have a problem doing the same for the Lakers, especially seeing as how this would be his best chance at a ring alongside LeBron and Anthony Davis.

It was recently reported that the two sides “have a high level of interest in each other” and Carmelo’s longtime friendship with LeBron doesn’t hurt. The Lakers were missing scoring off the bench last season and Anthony could come in and fill that void. Sure, he’s 37 years old, but he scored 13.4 points per game for the Blazers off the pine this past season and shot 40.9% from the 3-point line.

LA certainly isn’t a shoo-in for the NBA Finals as the Western Conference will be even tougher than it was this year. But both LeBron and AD should be back to full strength once the season starts and there’s always that chance that another big piece will be added. But even if they don’t get that piece, adding Carmelo is a no-brainer and gives Anthony one final shot to join the other four taken in the top five of the ’03 draft as an NBA champion.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

RELATED: Why Carmelo Anthony Should Have Beaten LeBron James for NBA Rookie of the Year