You can find a lot of “what-ifs” in Carmelo Anthony’s basketball career.
What would his NBA career look like if he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons instead of the Denver Nuggets? Would Syracuse win more than one national championship if he stayed with the program for more than one season? Or what would happen if Anthony didn’t commit to the Orange as a junior in high school?
The former Syracuse basketball star answered those questions during a recent interview on “All the Smoke,” a weekly podcast series hosted by former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.
At the 20:48 mark of the interview, Anthony said Syracuse wasn’t the only school he wanted to attend, especially after transferring from Towson Catholic (Maryland) to Oak Hill Academy (Virginia). Being on a national stage at Oak Hill allowed him to be surrounded by different college coaches on a nightly basis, and most asked him if he realized that he only verbally committed, meaning the pledge wasn’t official until he signed a national letter of intent.
“I committed to like five schools,” Anthony said with a laugh. “I’m walking around school with a bookbag full of letters. Every day it’s a new school and I’m like, ‘I’m coming.’ But I committed early to Syracuse my junior year on my birthday. That was my birthday present.”
Anthony said Georgia Tech was one of the schools he was interested in because he would become teammates with former NBA point guard Jarrett Jack and future Hall of Fame forward Chris Bosh. He also mentioned Villanova because of his relationship with head coach Jay Wright, as well as North Carolina, but both schools were covered at Anthony’s position.
Syracuse, however, had sharpshooter Preston Shumpert playing the small forward position, and he graduated right before Anthony arrived.
“I can come right in and play right away, and that’s why I really stuck with Syracuse.”
Anthony made a lasting impact at Syracuse by leading the program to its first national championship in 2003 over the Kansas Jayhawks. SU, headlined by Anthony, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara, went undefeated in the Carrier Dome that year and completed the most remarkable season in school history with an NCAA title.
“I ain’t never think I would do that (expletive) to be honest,” Anthony said. “We was a good team but I didn’t think we were going to be that good. To go 17-0 at home, I never lost in the Carrier Dome. People don’t talk about that enough. That’s hard to do. This is when the Big East was poppin’ at that point in time.”
Anthony said the team clicked at the right time and their confidence grew with each win, especially over nationally-ranked Missouri and Pittsburgh.
After claiming a national championship at Syracuse, Anthony entered the 2003 NBA Draft. He was chosen with the third overall pick by the Denver Nuggets, but he revealed that the Pistons had every intention leading up to draft day on taking him with the second pick. The Pistons picked Darko Milicic.
It wasn’t his intention to leave Syracuse after one season, either, because he appreciated the community and the campus environment. But he received a friendly nudge to pursue his NBA dreams by his former coach, Jim Boeheim.
“I’m like, ‘I never want to leave this (expletive). Like Syracuse, the Big East, it’s poppin’ up here. I’m staying,’” Anthony said. “If you go back to the footage — even in my press conferences — I’m like, ‘Forget one more year, I’m staying for four years. I’m coming back,’ and Boeheim was like, ‘Man, if you don’t get your (expletive) and get off my campus man. We ain’t tryna hear that.’
“He really kicked me off the campus, rightfully so.”