Carmelo Anthony has agreed to sign with the Houston Rockets. Houston was one game away from the NBA Finals last season but, according to projections from CBS’ SportsLine, they actually have a lower chance of winning a championship now that they are signing Anthony. At 34 years old, Anthony will likely have Rockets fans pining for the halcyon days of Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, and Antoine Carr.
As he gets older, criticisms of Anthony as a basketball player that were once overwrought are becoming more and more valid. Last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he was exposed as an aging ball-dominant scorer who disrupted the team’s offensive flow while being an outright detriment on defense.
Melo may be the last person to realize this, however. “I know how to play this game of basketball,” he told Jemele Hill in an interview with the Undefeated. “I’ve been playing it for a long time.” But the Rockets aren’t getting Carmelo Anthony the basketball player, because he doesn’t exist anymore.
When Anthony forced a trade to the New York Knicks in 2011, he did so to elevate his own personal brand. While he achieved his greatest NBA success—a Western Conference Finals appearance—with the Denver Nuggets, Anthony wanted to blossom under the bright lights of the world’s media capital. As he told the Wall Street Journal, “A lot of athletes are just known for being athletes. You can come to a place like New York and diversify yourself.”
While his pursuit of self-actualization was ambitious and admirable, it has come to a tragic end. Like a network of carpenter ants devouring a fallen fawn, his brand has consumed him entirely, leaving nothing on the bone. One day, he’s winning a national championship with Syracuse. And then, in the blink of an eye, he’s got his own line of upscale fedoras.
Let’s track how Carmelo’s brand hijacked his human biology and assumed control, one cell at a time.
Anthony at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in 2014: “I’m trying to take my brand to the next level.”
Anthony to Entrepreneur in 2015: “Your personal image and brand follows you everywhere. Build it deliberately and carefully.”
Anthony to Women’s Wear Daily in 2016: “For me, this is a big moment. I grew up on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so to be able to partner on a boys’ collection with Nickelodeon and Macy’s goes beyond my wildest dreams.”
While that Ninja Turtles quote brought our man 90 percent of the way to full-on brandification, he didn’t cease to be a carbon-based lifeform until July 17, 2018. It was on that date that Anthony released an Instagram video in which he played low-energy basketball in a nearly empty gym as buzzwords flashed across the screen.
By examining the video line by line, it becomes clear that this is the work of a sentient brand, one that is unfamiliar with the nuances of human expression.
NO DAYS OFF!!!
This first bit of text is directly contradicted by his previous Instagram video. Published June 26, that post is titled “Paris Fashion Week 2018” and includes footage of Carmelo toasting champagne, walking down the red carpet, and enjoying some summer off days.
The video abandons its syllabic, dictionary-like editorial style immediately after “consistency.”
As the words “fast break” appear on-screen, Carmelo takes a long 2-point jumper.
NO DAYS OFF
ME vs ME
Carmelo’s brand briefly acknowledges the internal struggle from which it has emerged victorious.
IN THE ZONE
ME vs ME
I’d say this is another cry for help, but brands can’t cry.
TRUST THE PROCESS
A catchphrase associated with the Philadelphia 76ers. Its inclusion here must be due to a glitch in the brand matrix.
GIVE AND GO
He’s shooting a stationary jumper here. No giving or going can be seen.
If it had a comma, this final line would read as a heartfelt plea. Instead, it’s an ironic coda, for the real Melo has evaporated into a haze of influencer jargon.
“Time is harsh,” Anthony said, presciently, back in 2014. He was speaking to Haute Time, a publication he co-founded that is dedicated to “luxury watches priced over $10,000,” and so he continued that thought by adding, “I’m just happy that I can be a part of it and spread that love, spread my knowledge, just make people understand and give them an education about wearing watches, about great timepieces.”