DMA 7-22 Sports

September 4, 2009 9:59 AM

The Melo Brand: Giving Back

Carmelo Anthony seems to be living the good life these days.

A $15.7 million NBA contract for 2009-2010 ... Addresses in Denver and Los Angeles ... Appearance in the 2009 Western Conference finals ... Starter for the USA’s gold-medal winning team at the Beijing Olympics ... Celebrity regular at music award programs ... High-profile DJ girlfriend, LaLa Vazquez.

For the man who always will be "Melo" to his adopted hometown of Baltimore, Anthony is Baltimore through and through. What you saw as an urban teenager you still see shades of publicly today at 25 – like the ball cap on the side of the head (with the nylon scarf beneath), the long Ts or hoodie with baggie jeans, the Timberlands. Melo still talks Baltimore – the short, clipped sentences with that familiar side-winding, hard city drawl. Call it the Melo brand. The difference between now and then -- the millions of dollars his brand commands.

Melo is a Baltimore favorite son -- one who seems to have withstood "Baltimore-like challenges" to his image. You know the incidents: punching out Mardy Collins of the Knicks and getting a 15-game NBA suspension (they play hard ball on Baltimore’s blacktops and alleyways); finding his mug in the infamous "Stop Snitchin’ " DVD warning that cooperation with Baltimore cops is a no-no (it’s what they do to survive on the street here); arrests for marijuana and DUI (play ball all day, chill at night, that’s Baltimore).

For Brooklyn, NY-born Anthony of Puerto Rican descent, all of it distinguishes him, yet serves as the foundation that has him as one of the NBA’s upper echelon, signature players today (with Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, Garnett and Dwight Howard). Don’t forget, the score-from-anywhere Melo led Syracuse to the national title as a freshman – something his aforementioned peers will never enjoy. No wonder Duke's Coach K showed respect for his game during the Olympics. His Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim described him during that 2003 championship season as "by far, the best player in college basketball. It wasn’t even close."

Despite some hits, the Melo brand is thriving. A big part of it is giving back to Baltimore. Giving back to a town like Baltimore is what you do – like Anthony's sponsorship of boys and girls AAU basketball teams under the banner of Team Melo.

Anthony breezed back home Sept. 3 to do more giving back – taking part in a three-day series of fund-raisers to help needy city kids, surely remembering he once was in their boat in difficult West Baltimore. Anthony's father died when he was a toddler, and it was basketball that gave him a way out. Throughout the week there would be a session at the city's Carmelo Anthony Center to reward hundreds of kids with coveted school supplies, celebrity bowling, a Baltimore afterparty and charity softball game to raise funds.

Anthony's Los Angeles-based Carmelo Anthony Foundation, with its mission "to invest in programs, leaders and community organizations that empower and provide opportunity for underserved kids and families," indeed is reaching back across the country to home.

Carmelo Anthony


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