Carmelo Anthony x OKC: Welcome to a Storybook Ending

Carmelo Anthony stepped off a private jet Sunday afternoon, outward a little airfield in a little city, and stepped into a surreal new reality.

Three hundred sorrow fans pulpy opposite a chain-link blockade to get a glimpse. They cheered and chanted his name.

Anthony grinned, walked a length of a fence, overwhelmed fingers by a links. Then he strolled behind again, his grin never wavering.

The pretension star who lusted for Broadway fame, who always sought a brightest lights and a biggest role, had overwhelmed down in a heart of a heartland—a foreigner in a bizarre land, a many distinguished third choice in a NBA.

This was Alice by a looking glass. Dorothy in Oz. Melo in OKC.

The parochial regard matched him. It has to.

Oklahoma City is not where Anthony, now 33, envisioned spending his twilight years as a pro. It’s not where he set out to land when he began dire a New York Knicks for a trade all those weeks ago. It would not have even done his tip 25 a final time he forced a trade, in 2011.

It is, however, his last, best wish to book a happy ending; indeed to change his career narrative.

This is not about stardom, that Anthony has prolonged enjoyed. It’s not about statistics, of that he has in abundance. It’s not even about his resume. With 24,156 points (25th in NBA history), 3 Olympic bullion medals and an NCAA championship, he’s a near-lock for a Hall of Fame.

No, this is about reputation, perception, legacy.

We have seen Anthony measure during an chosen turn (albeit with a sometimes-maddening shot preference and a bent to stifle a offense). At times, we’ve seen him pass and urge and rebound, too.

What we don’t know, after 14 years on a NBA stage, is how many Anthony truly wants to win—and how many he’s peaceful to scapegoat toward that end.

Will he accept a interrelated role, to accommodate a reigning MVP (Russell Westbrook) and a younger, spryer All-NBA brazen (Paul George)? Will he be OK with a smaller spotlight? Will he acquire life as a energy forward, a position he’s prolonged resisted?

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Those questions will certainly come Monday afternoon, when Anthony faces a Oklahoma media for a initial time. But maybe he’s already telegraphed a answers.

When a violation indicate came in New York, when Anthony and a Knicks jointly resolved they were improved off apart, Anthony specified a singular trade target: Houston, where he could join a MVP runner-up (James Harden) and a long-lived All-Star indicate safeguard (Chris Paul).

When that bargain unsuccessful to materializeand with training stay quick approachingAnthony stretched his list to Cleveland and Oklahoma City.

And as a Thunder and Knicks proceeded toward a deal, Anthony waived his trade kicker (worth about $8 million) to safeguard a deal.

In doing so, he chose partnership over comfort, talent over Nielsen rank, postseason guarantee over personal glory. Anthony has won usually 3 playoff array in his career and done a discussion finals usually once (in 2009). Moving to Oklahoma City means a possibility to be noticed as a winner, during prolonged last.

“He’s choosing to come to us,” one Thunder source said. “So there’s a certain bargain on his partial that he wants to learn a new way.”

There’s no necessity of skeptics around a NBAparticularly during Madison Square Garden, where Knicks officials were fervent to cut ties with Anthony, after a mostly unfulfilling six-plus-year run (and a four-year playoff drought). But in Oklahoma City, ravaged 14 months ago by Kevin Durant‘s departure, a trade brings usually optimism.

It’s a low-risk pierce for a Thunder, no matter how this examination goes. The trade cost them dual unconditionally unessential purpose players, Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott, and a second-round breeze pick.

Kanter was already costly ($17.9 million this season, $18.6 million in 2018-19), and McDermott will be seeking a fat new bargain subsequent summer. Neither plays any defense.

Anthony doesn’t either, though he competence usually turn a deadliest third choice in a NBA and a ideal stretch-4 for today’s pace-and-space game. Anthony has converted 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers over a final 4 seasons. He’s been even some-more fatal in general competition, attack 46.2 percent of his threes as a small-ball energy brazen for Team USA, per ESPN’s Mike Schmitz.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The reverence of “Olympic Melo” was always a bit overdoneit’s easy to play a interrelated purpose for usually dual weeks each 4 years while surrounded by NBA All-Stars and confronting fourth-tier defenders. But it is a indication a Thunder trust can be replicated, with Westbrook and George representing a best one-two punch Anthony has ever played alongside in a NBA.

For a initial time in his career, Anthony will not lift a weight of each win and loss. This is Westbrook’s group and Westbrook’s town, during slightest for a subsequent 7 or 8 months.

Westbrook can turn a giveaway representative subsequent summer, along with George and Anthony. If a partnership thrives, maybe all 3 stars re-sign subsequent summer (and a Thunder will happily compensate a estimated $100 million luxury-tax check to keep them). If a examination blows up, well, how many worse off would a Thunder unequivocally be? The hazard of Westbrook and George withdrawal for Los Angeles was already there.

The Thunder are all-in for this season, since going all-in was a usually option.

Anthony has many during stake, too, after slicing ties with a city and a group he loving most. It was 7 years ago that Anthonyinfatuated with a splendid lights and a large city—first started agitating for a trade to a Knicks, except their years of dysfunction, since he wanted a biggest stage.

He forced a trade, rather than wait for giveaway agency, since it meant some-more income during a timeand in doing so cost a Knicks all of their best assets, crimping their ability to urge a register for years to come. Given a possibility to join Houston or Chicago as a giveaway representative in 2014, Anthony again opted for resources over winning, staying with a Knicks on a near-max bargain that clogged their income top though ensured he’d sojourn a No. 1 option.

He never did filigree with Amar’e Stoudemire, or make room for Jeremy Lin, or attract another estimable co-star. He never did rouse his teammates, or lift a Knicks on a low playoff run, notwithstanding a gloomy state of a Eastern Conference.

Every Knicks coaching staff pleaded for a same things: round movement, defense, leadership. And each staff left frustrated.

“The classification had to pierce on,” a Knicks source said. “It’s not going anywhere with him in a benefaction state. He can’t be a best actor on your team.”

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Now, during prolonged last, Anthony has damaged a cycle. He left New York, notwithstanding underneath duress. He chose a winning enlightenment and a register with dual higher stars. With his window of event shrinking, Anthony chose a trail that all though mandates a personal evolution.

For a second time in 6 years, Anthony forced a trade, this time selecting a second-smallest marketplace in a league, to a city of around 638,000 peopleabout a series that pass by Penn Station on a given weekday.

On Sunday, a many dedicated Thunder fans flocked to Will Rogers World Airport to acquire a pretension star from a large city. They cheered him like a conquering hero. Only this time, Carmelo Anthony doesn’t need to play savior. He usually needs to fit in.

Howard Beck covers a NBA for Bleacher Report and BR Mag. He also hosts The Full 48 podcast, available on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter, @HowardBeck.

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