One Of The Greatest Careers In NBA History Almost Never Happened Over A $20 Stickup At Gunpoint
There's an intimate profile of Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony in the newest issue of ESPN The Magazine. The article mostly deals with Melo's quest to secure his legacy, both on and off the basketball court. Melo seems borderline obsessed with finding a post-basketball career that matches the prestige of his current gig. It's a fun read.
One part in particular stuck out to me. Though it's only mentioned in passing, it's incredible to think that one of the best players of this generation (and regardless of whether Melo wins a ring, he is probably going to end up in the Hall of Fame, like it or not) almost never made it to the league, because he once risked his life over $20 (emphasis ours):
Anthony had always been passionate about money -- not just the cash itself but the luxuries it afforded him and the ways in which it signified success. He'd grown up with none of it, first in a housing project in Brooklyn and later in Baltimore, where his mother worked as a housekeeper and received food stamps. As a 14-year-old, he was held up at gunpoint for $20 and decided he would take his chances and run rather than hand over the cash. "The Pharmacy" was how some referred to his neighborhood, because the only people who had money dealt drugs. "I could have gone that way," Anthony says. "Some friends did. But I started seeing that maybe with basketball I could make more money than they did."
As someone who grew up in New York City, I can tell you the first rule of being held up at gunpoint is this: Don't turn and run. Don't risk your life over money or material items. Of course, $20 to Melo as a 14-year-old means a lot less than it does to Melo as a 30-year-old. This is from the very next paragraph:
Along the way he developed obscure high-end habits that tended to show off his wealth: Nicaraguan cigars. Italian top hats. Ascot ties. Rare red wines. Vintage sneakers. Installation art. Ralph Lauren and Gucci. He hired a New York stylist to buy his outfits and deliver them with personal instructions about when and how they should be worn. He still wanted to look like the guy with the most cash in his pocket -- like the kid from the Pharmacy who had navigated his way to the top.
How many NBA careers -- or otherwise promising futures -- were cut short before they even began thanks to gun violence or other terrible crimes? Did a future champion meet his end in "The Pharmacy" while Melo escaped? We'll never know. Seeing it from the perspective of a guy who made it to the other side, it's shocking to remember that it all came so close to never happening.
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