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Shooting Star

Twenty-five-year-old Carmelo Anthony has an impressive résumé on and off the basketball court.
Kenneth Shouler
From the Print Edition:
Hugh Grant, November/December 2009

To hear Carmelo Anthony describe one of his beloved Padrón cigars reminds you of his life: smooth. He is the living, breathing embodiment of the successful new NBA player at the close of the first decade of a new millennium. His life is nothing if not international, abundant, even crowded with activity.

As he fits his six-foot-eight frame onto a sofa on a dim upper floor of Baltimore's Havana Club, it occurs to an observer that his résumé outside the game is every bit as long as his résumé in it. He won a national championship his only year at Syracuse and Olympic gold five years later. Now he is an executive producer at Krossover Entertainment, the film company that released Tyson, a documentary about the former heavyweight champion, and is preparing another on Roberto Clemente.

There are endorsements aplenty coming in—Tag body spray, Powerade, a sixth signature M6 shoe (the Air Jordan brand he endorses)—and charity contributions going out, like the $3 million he gave to Syracuse University to create a basketball practice facility. When he isn't slipping off to the monkish solitude of deep-sea fishing to have a smoke, he retreats to his cigar room with a Padrón 6000—or any of his Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series favorites, such as a Monarca, Torpedo or Diplomatico—to keep him company.

"I smoke a majority of the time at home, right after a game or on the weekend, or I'll sit outside, out in my yard. Or in a cigar room," he says. "I'll light a cigar and drink a glass of red wine."

Oh, yes, and he does play basketball. Basketball stokes the fire of Anthony's hyper-enriched, rounded-beyond-rounded lifestyle. But if a young man can make $80 million guaranteed over five years, and have all the trappings that go with it, what is the added incentive for his team to win an NBA title?

Anthony and his 20-something Olympic pals LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have been called basketball's second Holy Trinity by a national magazine. This second triad follows (some would argue at an appreciable distance) Trinity one of a generation ago—Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. But if you are already the axis around which an immeasurable planet of experiences revolve at 25, what's to inspire you to chase legends? An NBA championship is one of the few things missing in Anthony's short life, which has included so much.

Having something missing is nothing new for Anthony. His father (also named Carmelo) died when he was just two years old. That left his mother Mary to care for him and his three older brothers in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. "So I was just like any other kid, growing up in a single-parent family—no dad, and having to make ends meet," Anthony says. "My mom raised four of us and two cousins all by herself."

His oldest brother Wilford (knicknamed Direll) was an accomplished basketball player, and "was the talk of Brooklyn," Anthony recalls. "I was watching him come home with five- and six-foot trophies. I could watch him from my home window, where I could see the whole court." As he looked out on Direll competing, little did Carmelo know that he was seeing his own future.

When he was eight his mother moved the family to Baltimore, to a neighborhood called "The Pharmacy," a section later made famous as the setting for HBO's "The Wire." If you're guessing it didn't get the name because of the number of Duane Reade outlets on every corner, you're right. It was overrun with drugs and crime.

"It was the ghetto," Anthony recalls plainly. "I wanted to be a teenager running the streets." His mother held the reigns: if he got out of line, he was forbidden to play sports.

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