Sunday Conversation: Carmelo Anthony
Editor's note: Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony sat down with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith to discuss his controversial decision to sit in Detroit and his suddenly sagging Rookie of the Year campaign.
What did happen in Detroit? You refused to go into the game when the coach wanted you to go into the game. Explain to us what happened.
Anthony: Well, first of all, I just want everybody to know that I'm a winner. You know me, I wanted to win. I've been winning all my life and to come into a situation where we lost eight out of nine games -- everybody got frustrated, I got frustrated and my frustration just took over everything. ... I just felt like everybody was against me at that time -- for four people to question my shot selection at that time, I called one play and the coach called another play, I guess everybody was confused about what to run and when I came to the bench everybody was like "When did we start running flat or when did we start running clearouts in the middle of a quarter?" Usually, clearouts or flats is for the end-of-a-quarter play.
You go back toward the bench, Andre Miller the point guard of this team, a guy that's been in this league for years, questions your shot selection, you instantly reacted, you refused to come back in the game. How long did it take before you recognized that you were wrong about that?
Anthony: Oh, right after the game. Right after the game, I was sitting down in the locker room like "I quitted." I never quitted a day in my life, that's not me, it just happened, it was an incident. When I was on the bus, I was just thinking to myself, "I just let my teammates down, I quit, I don't know how they're thinking about it." I couldn't sleep that night. Then the next day in the meeting, we had a team meeting and I apologized.
Are there any players to ask for advice -- old or current players?
Michael Jordan. Did you talk to him after the incident in Detroit?
Anthony: Yeah, I talked to him.
What did he say to you?
Did Michael Jordan think it was as big?
Anthony: I think so because he told me -- I mean he saw it from the outside looking in. I did it, I did the incident, it happened and I don't see it being as big a deal. But he said he read the paper, he watched the TV (and) the news and my face is on every channel out there.
Now this is MJ now. What did he say to you? Because if he spoke to you and he was willing to tell you that, obviously he has some strong words of advice for you. What did he say?
Anthony: Well, the first thing he told me was to never let people know how you're feeling. If you got something to say to your teammates, never take it out on the court. Go to the locker room and then get at 'em -- get what's off your chest in the locker room, don't do it on the court. Then he told me just keep my head up, just put this incident in the past which I tried to do. But the more I tried to put it in the past, the more it got blown up.
When you think of Rookie of the Year candidates, it basically comes down to you and LeBron James. Are you concerned at all that this incident could be blown up to such a proportion that it could actually affect you capturing Rookie of the Year honors?
Anthony: Yes, I do believe that. I was just talking to somebody the other day about it. This little incident has been blown up so big that, I mean, I guess the Rookie of the Year award is slowly going down the ocean right now.
How cognizant are you about all the comparisons between you two guys? Is it that much of a competition in your eyes? You only play each other twice a year.
Anthony: I mean, I don't see why it's a big deal or a big competition. People say it's a rivalry. I don't see how it's a rivalry. We only play each other twice a year. Everywhere I go, people want to say LeBron's name to me. I get tired of hearing that name to be honest with you. Deep down inside, I want to explode like, "Please, don't say that name to me anymore. I don't want to hear his name." Not taking anything away from LeBron because me and LeBron are close. On his end, I know he gets tired of hearing my name too because everywhere we go we hear it.
Who was the first person you spoke to about it (the decision not to play) after the game once you realized that you were wrong about it? Who was the first person you reached out to?
Anthony: Nobody. I turned my phone off. I didn't want to talk to anybody. I called my mother; she didn't answer the phone. Then I got a call from her a week later. I got a message on my answering machine and she was like, "This is your mother, call me back Mr. Controversy," and I'm like, "What's going on?" Everybody calling me saying, "You're on every channel, every newspaper" and I'm like, "Over a little incident that I apologized to my team for and thought it was over?" ... That just goes to show you that any little thing can get blown up.