After an up-and-down 7-season relationship, the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony have finally cut ties, as the superstar forward moves to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a future second-round pick. Although Melo leaving was pretty much a foregone conclusion after last season, the trade is still leaving a lasting impression on a city that, through it all, loved its Nuyorican star. Melo was more than just the face of the Knicks franchise; he was also a community leader and a role model who gave back to the city of his birth.
During his time in the NBA, Melo has regularly committed his time and money helping reach people in need. In 2005, he established the Carmelo Anthony Foundation, and the perennial All-Star hosts a 3-on-3 tournament every year in Baltimore, known as “Melo’s H.O.O.D. Movement 3-on-3 Challenge (Holding Our Own Destiny).” He opened The Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center” in Baltimore in December of 2006, and he’s donated $1.5 million to the Living Classrooms Foundation, a non-profit organization that educates and helps train over 35,000 youth in east Baltimore for employment.
In New York City, his foundation focuses on three “key” tenets: “education, recreation, and community.” Through a wide ranging set of programs–such as Courts 4 Kids, A Very Melo GiveBack, A Very Melo Christmas, Camp Melo, A Very Melo Brunch: All Star Weekend, and A Very Melo Weekend: Puerto Rico–he has put in time to better the NYC community through his own brand of basketball-based outreach. Melo and his foundation also helped fundraise for Hurricane Sandy relief back in 2012, especially with regards to his childhood homes of Red Hook and Coney Island.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that, when Puerto Rico lost all power last week after Hurricane Maria, Melo mobilized to help the island. In a heartwarming letter posted to The Players Tribune, Melo, whose father was Puerto Rican and a member of the Young Lords, reflected on how his people need him to help provide a solution:
“The entire island is dark. But even if we can’t hear it, there’s more than 3 million people down there calling out for help. Imagine your house being powerless for just one hour. Just one day. Just one week. Imagine the young kids you have in your life — your son, your daughter, your nephew, your granddaughter — imagine them being scared and hungry for just one day.”
Melo continued, saying that “Puerto Ricans are facing the possibility of six months of that kind of struggle. I think about my own family in that situation and I can’t even wrap my mind around it. I can’t grasp it. I know there’s so many different things going on in America and in the world right now that need our attention, but damn … I need your help. I need the help of anybody reading this. We have to help the people of Puerto Rico get the supplies they need to survive day-to-day until their country can be built up again.”
Through his foundation, Anthony has set up a Youcaring donation page to fundraise for Puerto Rico relief help. He kicked off the donations with a $50,000 pledge; in a day, the campaign has raised over $205,000 of its $1 million goal. In a nice show of support for the now-ex Knick, the team’s new president, Steve Mills, came out today and said that Carmelo is “a tremendous person off the court,” and that the Knicks would donate $100k to his hurricane relief campaign.
While the Knicks might be better off building around Kristaps Porzingis and its other young players, it’s clear that Melo will be missed off the court and in the NYC community. His work in the Big Apple, Baltimore, and now Puerto Rico, along with his powerful ESPYs message along with his best friends–Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Paul–has shown that, for all of his on-court talent, Melo’s best contribution to the NBA might be his humanitarian work.