- Ric Bucher, NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer
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Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony has signed a long-term extension with Nike's Jordan Brand, his agent announced Wednesday, continuing a relationship that was set to end next year and signaling that Anthony has rehabilitated his image after a series of damaging incidents shortly after he entered the league.
Cal Andrews, vice president of BDA Sports Management, declined to give the terms of the extension but one source put it at just over $60 million for seven years. With royalties, the deal would make him the second highest-paid player behind LeBron James among Nike's NBA clients, just ahead of Sonics rookie Kevin Durant.
The deal was negotiated by BDA and its marketing team, which contradicts reports out of Denver last week that Anthony, a two-time All-Star, had terminated his relationship with the agency's marketing division. The reports were based on a release issued by the Nuggets on Anthony's behalf.
Anthony was not available for comment.
"There was obviously some confusion over BDA's relationship with Melo as a result of the release," Andrews said. "However, our relationship with him is still in place and we're continuing to work on large projects for him, as is evidenced by this deal. There are more to come."
The change, Andrews said, is that BDA's agreement with Anthony is no longer exclusive, allowing him to pursue and accept commercials and other deals brought to him by other agencies. Andrews remains Anthony's official NBA player agent.
Anthony's career has been a stomach-flipping procession of transcendent performances spliced by image-shattering incidents. He provided surprisingly strong competition for James in the 2004 Rookie of the Year race by helping the Nuggets qualify for the playoffs, but then clashed with Team USA coach Larry Brown that summer as the squad had a disappointing bronze-medal performance in the 2006 Olympics.
The following winter he was seen in a underground video with drug dealers in his hometown of Baltimore, with the performance including threats against police informants. He helped the Nuggets to the playoffs for a third consecutive season in 2006 but Team USA, led by Anthony, James and Dwyane Wade, collected another disappointing bronze in the '06 World Championships. A few months later, Anthony received a 15-game suspension for his part in a December fracas with the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
Since then, though, Anthony's ride has leveled out. He followed a strong performance (26.8 points, 8.6 rebounds) in Denver's first-round elimination last spring to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs by leading Team USA in scoring last summer as it went undefeated in qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Off the court, he built a $1.5 million youth center in Baltimore, contributed $3 million to his alma mater, Syracuse University, and started several programs for underprivileged kids in Denver.
Non-exclusive marketing arrangements between players and agencies, an industry source said, is a growing trend among NBA stars, who seek exposure on par with James. The Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett and the Miami Heat's Wade already have made similar moves to non-exclusive relationships with their representation. There has been speculation by several sources that the Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh and New Orleans Hornets' Chris Paul are on the verge of doing the same.
Ric Bucher covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.