Carmelo Anthony would have retired rather than ask LeBron James for help joining Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Houston Rockets shakes hands with his good friend LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers after the Lakers' home opener against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Houston Rockets 124-115. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
Carmelo Anthony values his friendship with LeBron James. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

As Dwyane Wade said goodbye to the NBA in Miami after a year-long farewell tour last season, you couldn’t help but wonder if one of his friends in attendance would ever get anything close to the same opportunity to go out on his own terms.

That friend was Carmelo Anthony, and it turns out he was very close to calling it a career months later, despite having an important ally on one of the NBA’s premier teams.

Carmelo Anthony: I was ‘prepared’ to walk away

Anthony, now playing for the Portland Trail Blazers after beginning the season as a free agent, told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he was ready to retire if the Blazers hadn’t offered him a roster spot last month:

"I was ready to walk away, yeah," Anthony said. "It was hard. But there came a point when I was, like, 'You know what? I've given a lot to this game. I played 15, 16 years in this game. I'm ready to give it up, because I just knew that at that point in time from a basketball standpoint, that narrative that it -- it was already out there. So I'd been fightin' an uphill battle anyway if I didn't go to the right situation."

Had Anthony wanted to get a spot on a certain team, though, calling LeBron James might have been an option. Few players have more leverage with their own team than James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who are off to an NBA-best 17-3 start.

However, that was apparently never an option in Anthony’s eyes:

"I never called him and said, 'What're we doin'?' Or 'I need you to do this for me,'" Anthony said. "I would never do that. I would never put him in that situation. I don't know what he's doin' on his side, but I would never put him, as a friend, as a brother, in that situation. And I know for a fact he would go to bat for me, but I don't feel comfortable putting people in that situation, whether you're my friend or not.

The 17-year NBA veteran also said that he didn’t want to join a team only for it to not work out soon after, which is basically what happened with his time on the Houston Rockets.

After only 10 games with the Rockets last year, the team permanently benched Anthony and traded him to the Chicago Bulls, who immediately dumped him, months later.

His time with the Blazers is apparently different from that.

"I say that because I know what I can do," Anthony said. "So if I were just to go to a team and to a situation just to be on the team and it didn't work out, it was gonna come back on me anyway. Like, the blame is gonna be on me anyway. So a situation like Portland, where I could just come in and just play my game and have a group of guys that really want me, and the organization that want me.

"There's no better feelin' than when you feel wanted. And I think that's what kinda keeps me motivated and understandin', like, this situation is -- it is and was the best situation for me."

It’s safe to say that Anthony’s Blazers tenure is going much better than Houston. He won Player of the Week honors on Monday after averaging 22.3 points per game in three games (several players had better numbers though; the award was more about honoring his comeback). The Blazers are 3-3 since Anthony’s arrival, an improvement from their previous position.

So it’s all going well as Anthony could have hoped for with the Blazers. Does that mean he should prepare to retire while it’s still a choice and not a forced exit?

Anthony said he didn’t sign with the Blazers for the Wade treatment. We’ll see just how far he can go from here.

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