NBA star Carmelo Anthony treasures his heritage
Lee Hernández and Collin OrcuttJune 11th 2009
The Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony says many fans don't know of his Puerto Rican heritage.
Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony frequently uses his signature jab step to catch the defense off guard.
But when Hispanic Business magazine named him to their 100 most influential Hispanics list last year, it was Anthony who was surprised.
“I didn’t really expect to be on that list,” said the 24-year-old NBA superstar over the phone from Denver.
The reason, he says, is that many of his fans don’t recognize him as Latino.
“A lot of people are surprised when they hear about it or when they see my tattoo,” says Anthony, referring to the Puerto Rican flag he has on his right hand. “I don’t think a lot of people know that side of me.”
A two-time NBA All-Star, Anthony is best known for his prolific scoring. In December, he scored 33 points in a single quarter, tying George Gervin’s NBA record for the same feat.
And last summer, he helped lead team USA to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, which may not have happened if team Puerto Rico had gotten their way.
“In ’04, there was talk of me playing with the Puerto Rican team,” says Anthony. “But that’s all it was, just some talk.”
Anthony said he chose to stay with the U.S. team because he was born and raised in the U.S., and felt more comfortable with the American team.
“But it’s good to know that people are recognizing that side of me — that side of my heritage,” he adds.
That heritage comes from his Puerto Rican father, Carmelo Sr., who died when Anthony was just 2.
“I’m pretty sure I still have some family members over there. I’m going to try and find out. I plan on doing some things in Puerto Rico this summer,” he says.
Anthony’s fiancée, former MTV veejay Alani (La La) Vázquez, now a blogger for Latina magazine and judge of the VH1 show “Charm School,” is also Boricua.
“I didn’t really know she was Puerto Rican until I got a chance to know her later on down the line,” says Anthony. “We always eat together. I like rice and beans and chicken. I’m a basic guy.”
Anthony, whose nickname is Melo, lived in Brooklyn’s Red Hook projects until the age of 8.
“It was mostly black, but as the years went on, Brooklyn — well, New York period — is filled with Puerto Ricans and Spanish. I grew up around all that,” he says.
The family later moved to Baltimore’s the Pharmacy section, the dangerous setting of the HBO series “The Wire.”
Anthony says his upbringing in these difficult environments made him want to give back to the Baltimore community.