Before the NBA implemented its age-limit rule, elite high school players were skipping college completely in the early 2000s in hopes of hitting it big in the League. But as the top-recruit in the nation in 2002, Carmelo Anthony broke the mold and decided to head north to Syracuse University, committing early to Coach Jim Boeheim and the Orange on his birthday.
“That was like my birthday present,” recalls Anthony during an intimate family dinner hosted by Jordan Brand in mid-January. “I come home from school and Boeheim’s sitting in the living room…That moment kind of just switched everything.”
While Melo initially stated that he planned on staying for more than one year to develop his game before going pro, he instead took the college basketball world by storm and accomplished all of his goals in one fell swoop.
To give a brief recap of his 2002-03 campaign, Melo averaged 22.5 points and 10.0 rebounds a game, led ‘Cuse in scoring in 23 games, was named a Second Team All-American, and became the first freshman since “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison in 1986 to lead a team to the National Championship. He also recorded 22 double-doubles, was named First Team All-Big East, the 2003 East Regional’s MVP, won the Wayman Tisdale Award, won the Big East Rookie of the Year Award, and led Syracuse to a 30-5 record. Last, but certainly not least, he led Syracuse to its only National Championship and won the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player award.
“After the game was over and y’all won, and everybody’s on the court going around, you looked for your mom in the stands and you mouthed ‘thank you’ to her,” recounts Larry Miller, president of Jordan Brand, sitting right next to Anthony. “What happened on the court was great, but that showed who you are as a person. That’s the thing that really kind of stood out for me when I think about that Syracuse game.”
Melo’s season set the bar for one-and-done college players, and no college player has been able to match what Anthony did during his incredible season in upstate New York eleven years ago. Without this legacy, the ‘Pure Platinum’ colorway of the M10 that dropped Saturday wouldn’t exist. So before you take a trip down memory lane, watch to see what it means to be a humble superstar.