Orlando Magic Draft Pick Cole Anthony’s Life Almost Ended Before It Started

Rookie Orlando Magic point guard Cole Anthony has a lot to live up to. He has to prove he was worth as a first-round draft pick. He must show his teammates and fans that he can help the franchise find its identity. Anthony also has to live up to a legacy. His father Greg Anthony had a long run in the NBA as a point guard himself. In the middle of that run, Cole was born. But his life was nearly cut short.

Cole Anthony’s father Greg Anthony was a journeyman point guard

The New York Knicks selected one Greg Anthony 12th overall in 1991. He made his mark with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball team, off the back of a 1990 NCAA Championship win. That team retired his jersey number, according to the Las Vegas Sun, but his career in the NBA didn’t have quite the same mark.

He quickly developed a reputation for poor shooting in the NBA. He kept his spot with the Knicks thanks to his brutal defensive style, which earned him minutes despite his offensive liabilities, SB Nation reports. After 1995, Greg bounced between teams, mostly playing off the bench to help hold late-game leads. During this phase of his career, he put a pause on his time with the Portland Trail Blazers. He was about to be a father.

How Cole’s life nearly ended before it started

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Greg told the fraught tale of his son’s birth to The Undefeated in 2019. He took the unprecedented step of taking a leave of absence in the middle of the 2000 playoffs. He wouldn’t let anything get in the way of witnessing the birth of his son.

What should’ve been an ecstatic moment turned to the most stressful, fear-wracked time of Greg’s life. Every time Cole nearly emerged from his mother, his heart rate dropped rapidly. The issue turned out to be that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. His son was suffering before he was even born.

An emergency C-section was planned. But doctors devised a plan to untangle Cole, and he was able to be born naturally. Not only did those moments of oxygen deprivation not leave any notable lasting effects, but Cole grew up to match — and perhaps exceed — his own father’s basketball career.

Cole’s journey following his father to the NBA

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Cole spent just one season proving his worth to the NBA with the North Carolina Tar Heels. That legendary college squad found they had a player with NBA potential from the start. In his debut, he put up 34 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists against Notre Dame, ESPN reported at the time. It was inevitable that he’d be out the door nearly as soon as he entered it.

A torn meniscus in the middle of the season, according to Bleacher Report, didn’t affect his ascent to the NBA. His quick recovery from that and subsequent minor injuries only solidified his pro potential. While the Tar Heels had a disappointing year, Cole’s individual performances were a consistent bright spot.

He was picked up by the Magic 12th overall in the 2020 NBA draft. The thinking in Orlando is likely to bolster their backcourt defensive brunt, and add some outside shooting. It remains to be seen how quickly he’ll adjust to both the Magic’s system, and the NBA style of play.

Fans, of course, want the much-hyped rookie in the starting lineup as soon as possible. Cole, who holds no illusions over his own abilities, thinks he needs more time. Rookie Wire reports that he called his first preseason NBA game “terrible,” and said he needs to improve every aspect of his game.

Turnovers were a problem, and his accuracy was dismal. It’s hard to imagine things staying that way, though. He blamed no one but himself and expects to learn how to adjust his skills to the NBA soon. He might not be the next Trae Young at his position, but there’s a good chance he unearths something unique, and fearsome, as he adjusts.