It's a strange feeling when you finally realize what's happening. Wow, there's future basketball Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony and acreit sound king DJ Khaled wearing video game headsets and bloodily gunning down a team of Swarm monsters together. Slightly better than staying home and streaming the second half of a preseason game.
Anthony, the New York Knicks' star forward and most decorated man in Olympic basketball history, sat down with Complex for a few minutes at the Gears of War 4 launch event in New York. The game, set to release on Xbox at Midnight on October 11, was the backdrop for the Anthony-hosted event and its co-op mode had athletes and celebs locked in on screens all around the room. For gamers, the release of Gears of War 4 marks the return of one of the most celebrated franchises in video game history. For Complex, it means a quick chat with arguably the biggest athlete in New York.
With more time, we'd explore his impact on black athletes' attitudes towards social responsibility, the dangers of institutionalized racism and its denial, and other woke topics that are necessary to discuss for America to move forward. But in a game-themed loft in Chelsea, after the dude just finished sawing monsters in half with DJ Khaled yelling in his headset, it's probably best to keep things light.
Besides, Carmelo Anthony was caught walking around a New York bodega in a personally monogrammed white robe this summer—there are questions that need to be answered.
First, tell us a little bit about your partnership with Microsoft and Gears of War 4 and how this came about.
Well, some of the creators of the game of Gears of War and from Microsoft are good friends of mine. They reached out and they know I’m a gamer, especially when it comes to these types of games so it was kind of a no-brainer. They got a big release of Gears of War 4, I got the opportunity to come out and play games with some friends. It don’t get better than that. [Laughs.]
I saw you out there playing. Your character kinda looked like Desiigner.
I was playing with the creator, the actual creator of the game. So he was really giving me the ins and outs and the secrets that nobody really knows. [Laughs.]
Can I pry those from you right now?
No, no, no. Not yet. Not yet.
In August, everybody saw the Snap that Lala took of you going to the bodega in a robe. In your opinion, what is the difference between a bodega and a convenience store?
A bodega, that’s the corner store. That has all the snacks and the things that a convenience store don’t have. The candies that the convenience store don’t have, the bodega has. They sell individual pieces of candy! Individual Swedish Fish and Now & Laters. And I think they have better chips than a convenience store.
What were you actually buying that night? You ran out in the robe, you must’ve been in a rush.
I think—I don’t know—I was going to get some water. Just some snacks. Some chips. Candy. I think some watermelon slices or something like that. [Laughs.] It was just—I had a sweet tooth that night. I felt like getting out the house and walking to the store. I didn’t know I was gonna have the crowd of my wife and everybody with me.
So you really were just going to walk out alone to the corner store?
I do it all the time; just so happens she made it hot. She put it on the Snap.
You seem more comfortable in those situations than a lot of athletes. Like you went out in Rio to a favela, you went to Cuba—what is it that makes you so comfortable in those situations?
Yeah, I mean, I was just going right across the street to the store to get something and come back. I go there all the time the same way. In a robe, in some sneakers, in a hat, and I hurry up and come back. I feel comfortable in those situations.
I go there all the time the same way. In a robe, in some sneakers, in a hat, and I hurry up and come back.
Have you ever heard of a chopped cheese before?
Yeah, of course.
Can a bodega be a bodega without a cat?
Not at all. Not at all.
As an NBA player you travel a lot just for your job, and you’ve got a bit of money and seem to enjoy seeing the world. What do you think Americans can learn by traveling more?
We can become more educated on what’s going on in the world rather than the TV or news channels educating us. I think first-hand experiences and actually getting over there and talking to the people, you get a different perspective than what’s being told to us. I think that’s the biggest thing. I really like traveling and getting out and seeing different cultures and talking to different people. It’s different when you’re over there.
[Michael Jordan] is one of the reasons [Kristaps Porzingis] is able to have those skills and play in the NBA today.
Is there a difference in how it’s depicted and how you see it?
Like Cuba—what do we know as Americans about Cuba besides what we see in random B-roll?
In Cuba, you see pictures of the classic cars there, you see cigars, and that’s the only thing that depicted. But when you actually go over there you see that cigars is just a part of the actual culture, it’s not the culture. Just a part of the culture.
I was over there in heaven because I like cigars, and to people over there it’s nothing. Cigars are like cigarettes over there. To them, “Yeah, you can get a cigar right here.” You can get a cigar from anywhere. I actually fell in love with that culture. You go to a restaurant, they hand you an ashtray and a lighter and they cut it. Regardless if it’s a five-star restaurant or not, that’s what they give you.
Cigars are like tapas?
They’re tapas over there.
We’re the same age. A lot of people over that 30 mark start turning into that terrible old head hip hop guy. What is your opinion on some of the younger cats out there? Do you have any strong opinions on, like, Lil Yachty?
I like Lil Yachty, like Uzi Vert, I like those guys. I think they bring a different type of energy to the game. I think they kind of resparked the game a little bit. Just with that bounce and that energy and with their vibe. You know I’ll always be an original hip hop guy—’80s, ‘90s, early 2000s, I’m that guy—but as far as what the young kids is doing, it’s fascinating to see that. Even if you don’t like it, you’re still in there like [Nods head.] You know what I mean? You’re still bouncing to it regardless if you don’t like it. They still gonna make you move.
I like Lil Yachty, like Uzi Vert. ... I think they kind of resparked the game a little bit.
Do you see that difference in the locker room?
Yeah, you see that. You see the younger cats playing that all day long. As soon as they wake up they’re playing those songs. But you get used to it, you adjust, you realize that it’s 15 players on the team and everybody has their own style and what they listen to and you adjust to it.
You’re a team Jordan guy. Dwyane Wade made a comment that NBA players in general but specifically LeBron James can’t pass Michael Jordan, they can only tie him. How do you feel about that? Do you think there’s some truth to the idea that no player will be able to surpass him because of the aura that Michael Jordan has?
Yeah, I think the way that he has transcended the game. The game was looking for an identity, and he came in with the swag, with the short shorts, the long socks, and the chain—he brought something different to the game of basketball. Globally. Now the game is already global. We’re just taking advantage of what was already created, from a global standpoint. And we’re enhancing it, but he set that stage. I mean, nobody knew about NBA players like that before ‘92. They wasn’t watching NBA games over there. So when they saw that Dream Team in ‘92, a new era had started. It was a new vibe, a new aura, a new respect for basketball.
I guess Kristaps Porzingis is a direct descendant of that burgeoning scene.
Yeah! He’s a descendant of what was created in ‘92. For them to bring awareness globally to the game of basketball, [Michael Jordan] is one of the reasons he’s able to have those skills and play in the NBA today.
So he’s not a robot?
Nah, they say he’s a unicorn. That’s what they say.