By Arnie Leshin
With a promise to his mother Mary that if he signed on to play in the National Basketball Association, freshman Carmen Anthony led Syracuse University to its first and only national championship in 2003.
It was an epic journey for him. He hoisted the NCAA trophy and Most Valuable Player award in leading the way for head coach Jim Boeheim’s victory over Kansas.
“It was a great season, a great moment winning it all,” he said Monday after retiring from the sport he loved that he turned into a 19-year career.
He did so after leaving as the ninth leading scorer in NBA history. He came away with 28,289 points only topped by LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal.
As he promised his Mom, he received his Batchelor of Liberal Arts Degree from the Cuse in 2008.
“And now,” he said Monday, “is the time for me to say good-bye to the game that gave me purpose and pride, and it’s bittersweet.”
The 6-foot-8 Anthony, who was buddy-buddy with James in the same era, has a legacy that has long been secure. He ends his playing career after being named one of the 75 greatest players in NBA history.
He was a 10-time All-Star, a past scoring champion, and a six-time All-NBA selection.
He never made it to the NBA finals, and only played in the conference finals once, he played with a great attitude, was a fan favorite wherever he played, and knew what it was like to be a champion.
He was the most outstanding player of the 2003 Final Four, scoring 28 points in the final, scrubbing the boards for 14 rebounds, and handing out 11 assists.
When the ceremonies were over, he rushed to hug his mother and his other relatives.
His other huge accomplishments was helping the United States team win Olympic gold three times, playing in the same lineup with James each time. These occurred at Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, and Rio de Janeiro.
He received a message Monday from former Orange coach Boeheim, who is now retired, “Welcome to retirement” he said to his former elite player.
He added, “I am honored to have been a part of your legendary career, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for you.”
From NBA Commissioner Adam Silver came this: “We congratulate Carmelo on a remarkable 19-year career and look forward to seeing him in the Hall of Fame.”
Anthony played in 31 games in four appearances at the Olympics, the most of any USA player ever. His 37 points against Nigeria in the 2012 games is a United States record at the Olympics, as are his 10 3-pointers from that game and his 13-for-13 effort from the foul line against Argentina in 2008.
“I had nothing, just a ball on the court,” he recalled in his retirement moments, “and a dream of something more.
“But basketball was my outlet. My purpose was strong, my communities, the cities I represented with pride and the fans that supported me along the way. I am forever grateful for these people because they made me Carmelo Anthony.”