On the night of the 2003 NBA draft, there is absolutely no way you could have imagined this scenario would be possible.
Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are teaming up for the first time on a championship-contending Los Angeles Lakers roster.
As unlikely as it was 18 years ago, it was even more unlikely during the 2019 season, when Anthony was waived by the Houston Rockets after just ten games and spent the season on the sidelines, his career seemingly over.
A willingness to accept a role after the Portland Trail Blazers offered an NBA lifeline has seen the rejuvenation of one of the modern eras most talented offensive players.
Now 37 years old, Anthony finds himself in a position to potentially reach the NBA Finals for the first time, playing alongside draft rival and longterm friend, LeBron.
The reasons for Anthony joining the Lakers are obvious. A 10-time All-Star and 6-time All-NBA player, Anthony has achieved great success on the individual level without reaching the grandest stage the game has to offer.
Speaking with Spectrum SportsNet at Media Day, Anthony gave insight into the reasons why now felt like the right time to team up with LeBron.
“I know our friendship. I know our brotherhood that we have. I know the connection that we have,” said Anthony.
“Over the years, we’ve kind of been dipping and dabbing at, ‘Oh let’s play together, let’s do this or let’s do that.’ But it wasn’t that. And at his point in time, where we both are in our careers, I think we both needed to hear that. I needed to hear, ‘I need you. I want you. Let’s go.’ I really needed to hear that affirmation.
“It was a different feeling. It was a different vibe at this point.”
While LeBron remains an MVP candidate and the leader of the squad, Anthony has transitioned to playing a role, providing outside shooting and the ability to score in a variety of ways in a complimentary role.
You could say Anthony has paid his role playing dues, he’s proven he is willing to take a lesser role to remain in the league in a winning situation.
“At the end of the day, just going out there and wanting to play basketball, wanting to be a part of what’s happening and be a major part of our team success. Whether it comes in different ways, shapes or forms, me personally, I had to kind of swallow that pill,” Anthony told NBA.com after signing with the Blazers in December, 2020.
While Portland failed to make a deep postseason run, Anthony was a solid contributor, averaging 14.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game across two seasons with the franchise.
The Lakers are set to enter opening night with a number of injuries to key players, with Trevor Ariza, Talen Horton-Tucker and Wayne Ellington confirmed out. It does open the possibility for Anthony to get the start against the Golden State Warriors.
Whatever his role is throughout the campaign, Anthony told ESPN he has one thing on his mind.
“I’m coming in with a championship on my mind. I think we all know that this is the one thing that I’m missing, right?
“This is the one thing that it keeps me up at night, it motivates me, because I don’t have it. I want that experience.”
Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers tips at 10:00 p.m. ET on TNT.